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Raul Jimenez winner keeps Wolves in Champions League hunt

Wolves remain in the hunt for the Champions League as Bournemouth battle the drop.

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Raul Jimenez opens the scoring for Wolves against Bournemouth. (Richard Heathcote/NMC Pool/PA)

Raul Jimenez opens the scoring for Wolves against Bournemouth. (Richard Heathcote/NMC Pool/PA)

Raul Jimenez opens the scoring for Wolves against Bournemouth. (Richard Heathcote/NMC Pool/PA)

Raul Jimenez underlined Wolves’ Champions League credentials after a gritty win over Bournemouth.

The striker’s 15th Premier League goal of the season earned a 1-0 win and delivered another blow to the Cherries’ survival hopes.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves sent a warning to Chelsea and kept pace with Manchester United to record their second win of the top flight’s restart.

They remain sixth, level with United after their own win over Sheffield United, but closed the gap on fourth placed Chelsea to two points.

If Manchester City’s two-year ban for breaking UEFA’s financial fair play rules – currently under appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport – is confirmed the team who finishes fifth this season will qualify for the Champions League.

Bournemouth can only dream of such heights with their five-year stay in the top flight looking increasingly precarious.

The Cherries are in the relegation zone on goal difference but face Manchester United, Tottenham, Leicester and Manchester City in four of their next five games.

They began brightly enough with Phillip Billing forcing Rui Patricio to scamper off his line early.

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Ruben Neves , left, and Bournemouth’s Phillip Billing both went close early on (Catherine Ivill/NMC Pool/PA)

Ruben Neves , left, and Bournemouth’s Phillip Billing both went close early on (Catherine Ivill/NMC Pool/PA)

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Ruben Neves , left, and Bournemouth’s Phillip Billing both went close early on (Catherine Ivill/NMC Pool/PA)

Two wild Ruben Neves efforts were the best Wolves – playing their 50th game of the season – could muster in response at Molineux.

It was a slog, with Adama Traore restricted to one lung-busting run which was crudely halted by David Brooks, as Bournemouth kept it tight.

However the Cherries suffered a blow when Callum Wilson collected his 10th yellow card of the season for going in late on Patricio and he will now miss their next two games against Newcastle and Manchester United.

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Adama Traore (left) caused problems for the visitors (Mike Egerton/NMC Pool/PA)

Adama Traore (left) caused problems for the visitors (Mike Egerton/NMC Pool/PA)

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Adama Traore (left) caused problems for the visitors (Mike Egerton/NMC Pool/PA)

Traore did go close when he shot over from the edge of the area in first-half injury time but there was little to suggest a breakthrough would come.

Wolves had already drawn a league high seven games at home – something which could still cost them a Champions League place.

That they are challenging the elite is only positive for a team only promoted from the Sky Bet Championship two years ago.

Nuno’s side are also on the brink of reaching the Europa League quarter-finals this term and they finally demonstrated their class to find the opener on the hour.

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Raul Jimenez celebrates the winner (Ben Stansall/NMC Pool/PA)

Raul Jimenez celebrates the winner (Ben Stansall/NMC Pool/PA)

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Raul Jimenez celebrates the winner (Ben Stansall/NMC Pool/PA)

Matt Doherty fed Traore and the wideman slung in a delicious cross for Jimenez to attack and head past Aaron Ramsdale.

It was the Mexico international’s 24th goal of an increasingly productive season and the first effort on target of the game.

Bournemouth wilted in the heat and had no response, never threatening a leveller.

Indeed, Wolves nearly added a second but Ramsdale saved Willy Boly’s instinctive effort after Joao Moutinho’s corner with 12 minutes left.

And Pedro Neto should have made it 2-0 in injury time but, after an excellent run from his own half, shot wide.

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