Crystal Palace toasted their return to Premier League action with a 2-0 victory at Bournemouth that piled more misery on the relegation-threatened Cherries.
Luka Milivojevic's exquisite free-kick and Jordan Ajew's ninth goal of the season put the Eagles two up inside 23 minutes at a deserted Vitality Stadium.
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- How Bournemouth and Palace lined up
And Palace's commanding position was rarely threatened from there on against a toothless Bournemouth attack that registered just a single shot on target in the 90 minutes.
Palace's fourth consecutive league victory lifts them above Arsenal into ninth in the table, four points behind fifth-placed Manchester United, while Bournemouth - who have earned just eight points from their last 13 games - remain in the bottom three on goal difference.
Bournemouth: Ramsdale (6), Stacey (6), S. Cook (6), Ake (6), Smith (6), H. Wilson (6), Lerma (5), L. Cook (5), Brooks (7), King (5), C. Wilson (5).
Subs: Solanke (6), Danjuma (6), Stanislas (6).
Crystal Palace: Guaita (7), Ward (7), Dann (7), Cahill (7), Van Aanholt (7), Milivojevic (8), Kouyate (7), McArthur (7), Ayew (8), Benteke (7), Zaha (7).
Subs: Townsend (6), McCarthy (5), Riedewald (5).
Man of the Match: Luka Milivojevic.
How Palace piled pressure on Bournemouth
The returning David Brooks looked to have injected some much-needed quality into the Bournemouth attack ahead of their return to top-flight action, but the hosts' encouraging start evaporated inside 12 minutes thanks to a moment of individual brilliance.
- David Brooks made his first Bournemouth start in 14 months and Harry Wilson and Josh King returned as Eddie Howe made three changes from the defeat at Liverpool.
- Captain Luka Milivojevic returned to the Crystal Palace starting line-up, replacing James McCarthy in their only change from the victory over Watford.
Wilfried Zaha won a free-kick 20 yards from goal, presenting Milivojevic with an opportunity to ensure Palace picked up from where they left off before the coronavirus suspension, and the Eagles captain duly obliged with a sumptuous effort into the top corner.
Bournemouth rallied as Callum Wilson headed Brooks' cross onto the roof of the Palace goal, but their response was snuffed out midway through the first period.
A fine team move ended with Zaha threading Patrick van Aanholt in on the overlap and the Dutchman's pullback was clinically dispatched by Palace's topscorer Ayew.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe brought on Arnaut Danjuma at the break in a bid revive his side's hopes, but the loss of Joshua King to injury further hampered their cause.
King was caught on the ankle following a robust Gary Cahill challenge that saw the Palace centre-back win the ball before making contact with the forward. The challenge was reviewed by VAR, which ruled no infringement had occurred.
Brooks lasted an hour before cramp halted his return. His replacement Junior Stanislas' whipped corner set up Nathan Ake for Bournemouth only effort on goal, but the Dutchman's header was straight at Vicente Guaita as Palace secured a fourth clean sheet on the spin.
Opta stats: Palace on the march
- Crystal Palace have won four consecutive Premier League games, the best ongoing winning run of all sides in the competition; only in December 1992 and April 2014 (both five in a row) have they enjoyed a longer winning streak in the top-flight.
- Bournemouth have lost seven Premier League games in 2020; no other side has lost more during this calendar year (level with West Ham).
- This was the first time Crystal Palace scored more than one goal in the first half of a Premier League game this season; they last did so on the final day of the 2018-19 campaign, which was also against Bournemouth.
- Bournemouth have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 13 league matches, conceding 25 goals across this spell.
- Crystal Palace have won three consecutive league meetings with Bournemouth for the first time since April 1988.
What the managers said…
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe: "It was a disappointing game and a disappointing start for us. The start is where we lost the game, it's a really good free-kick from their perspective but we were disappointed to concede it.
"It was a real hammer blow for us against a team that a very difficult to play against when you go behind. They are very resolute, and we struggled to create any meaningful chances.
"We have not been at our level when it comes to creating clear-cut chances and scoring from open play [this season], and that was missing against tonight."
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson: "The first half was excellent, and we controlled the game well enough in the second half to ensure our lead was never in enormous danger. It's a fourth game in a row with a victory and a clean sheet, so we have to be delighted with that.
"When you get a lead that early in the game, you provide yourself with the platform to go on and win the game if you stayed disciplined, that is what we did."
Man of the Match - Luka Milivojevic
Milivojevic's return to the Palace starting line-up ensured the Eagles carried on from where they had left out before the suspension of the season. This game was won in midfield, and the Serbia international was the chief operator in Palace's engine room. His sumptuous free-kick and game management contributed ensured the visitors enjoyed a measure of control throughout an impressive performance.
Live Premier League
Bournemouth travel to Wolves on Wednesday at 6pm, before Crystal Palace make the trip to leaders Liverpool on Wednesday at 8.15pm - live on Sky Sports Premier League.