FULL TIME AT ANFIELD: BOURNEMOUTH VS LIVERPOOL REVIEW. REDS GET SHOCKED BY MINNOWS
We know it had to happen sometime, it was a good run of unbeaten games (15 unbeaten) the Reds had notched and though every fan and member knew how rare having double-digit unbeaten games is in this EPL in 2016, it was the manner in which we gave it up and the team we gave it up to that we would never have expected in our scariest nightmare.
I would have expected such capitulation earlier this season, knowing all too well how easily we get haunted by ghosts of poor defenses past. Seeing the lineup with Lucas Leiva in the back four made me pause a moment because in this Red Renaissance, only he may still have that error prone defensive mindset that’s left almost all our title challenges in tatters season after season (don’t even remind me of ‘slippy’). But his presence could not be helped as Matip’s ankle injury had him sidelined; so Lucas was it this matchday. Klopp had him playing alongside DejanLovren at the center of our backline with Milner and Clyne at the opposite flanks with Loris Karius in goal. Wijnaldum, Henderson, and Emre Can maintained their partnership in the middle of the park while upfront, with Coutinho still out with injury, Divock Origi got the nod to play alongside Sadio Mane and Firmino.
Although our second half was one to forget (especially the final fifteen minutes), what happened prior to that nightmare quarter was something to bring joy to the sorest heart.
Before the ref’s halftime whistle, the Reds were sitting pretty on a 2-goal cushion, had 59% possession, had better chances at goal, kept the ball moving when we had it, everything seemed to be going according to script with Sadio Mane’s opening scoring after latching on to a long pass from Emre Can, outperforming Nathan Ake in the straight dash before sending the goal past Arthur Boruc.
Only two minutes later, carrying on the momentum, Henderson played an inch perfect pass to Origi after Wilson lost the ball in a Bournemouth attack, the ball to Origi had Boruc in all sorts of bother as he rushed forward to challenge the Belgian, trying to make up for not challenging Mane earlier. But the Belgian forward kept his composure to round the keeper before sending the ball home from an awkward angle hitting the post as well to get us the cushion.
Liverpool kept the advantage and clean sheet into the break with a little help from the referee in the 36th minute when the ball fell kindly to Ake in Liverpool’s penalty area and as he attempted to go round Firmino, the over-eager Brazilian got him down in the box but all cries for a penalty from the Bournemouth players didn’t register with official Madley who adjudged the tackle a fair one.
The Reds had dominated the opening 30 minutes with the home side struggling to get a touch of the ball. JurgenKlopp’s men were clinical when the opportunities came, which will leave him delighted with their exploits in
the first period.
The half-time talks would have been along the lines of our lads giving more of the same treatment in the second half but this time we had to deal with former Red, Jordan Ibe, as he made his way onto the pitch as a half-time tactical sub for Joshua King.
The Cherries struggled and struggled to get any meaningful play going early in the second half as it seemed Liverpool had the noose tightening every minute that passed with the lads halting every Bournemouth buildup before it got past the middle of the park.
Bournemouth’s first sub seemed, Ibe, seemed easy to deal with as the Reds carried on with their business in confident fashion. Nothing seemed to prepare us for their second substitution, Ryan Fraser, who brought a kind of fire into the game as he came on for the injured Junior Stanislas, who went down after a seemingly innocuous tackle by Henderson.
Fraser pretty much ran riot at our defenses as soon as he came on, taking advantage of a huge error from Lovren, gliding dangerously into our penalty area, leaving Milner with little options better than bringing Fraser down in the box hoping lightning would strike twice and the ref would let it slide. That didn’t happen as the ref promptly pointed to the spot for the penalty.
Liverpool, just minutes later, cut short any home celebrations with a timely reply to restore our two goal cushion as Can sent in one of the best goals of his Liverpool career after controlling a glorious pass from Mane to get his curling effort to the postage stamp past Arthur Boruc’s outstretched arm.
Other mid-table teams wouldn’t fancy their chances after such a timely reply by the Reds but not Bournemouth as the goal seemed to spur them on as the home team started stringing passes together confidently and making the occasional probe into our final third.
Milner nearly made amends for the penalty he gave away with a little help from Boruc as the Englishman sent his corner to the nearpost, the direct corner took Bournemouth’s goalie by surprise as his anticipation to stop the curly-dipping setpiece nearly got it over the line (95% over from goal-line tech) but the goal wasn’t given.
That seemed to make Fraser play like a man possessed as he spearheaded yet another campaign past our final third, receiving a cutback from Wilson before sending his sublime effort past Karius into the bottom corner.
Two minutes later saw the Cherries level with yet another sublime attack at an unraveling Liverpool defense. This time it was the defender, Steve Cook that got on the end of a pass from (you guessed it) Ryan Fraser to send his stunning strike past Karius for Bournemouth’s third.
Both teams made dangerous forays past their defense line with Bournemouth looking the more likely of the two to make any impact but the game stayed level. Origin nearly got us over the line in the 90th minute with his effort just inches wide of the post after controlling in the box to set up the volley.
The match was to be decided in the 93rd minute after a scorching strike by Steve Cook got palmed down by Karius, a howler as Nathan Ake took advantage of the loose ball to have a go, his first was stopped but the persistent Bournemouth man, surprisingly had time to get a second pop at the cherry and converted this time to send the Vitality Stadium into raptures.
Liverpool had one more shot at goal but Milner’s cross was well handled by Arthur Boruc. That was to be the last word from the Reds as the Cherries ran the seconds down to the ref’s final whistle to get all three points from their very first win over Liverpool since 1972.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Ryan Fraser: Not a Red, I know, but his contribution to this match was the sole reason Bournemouth got the win. This man has to be on some top team’s January wishlist after his breathtaking performance against Liverpool.
BEST RED PERFORMANCE:
Sadio Mane: Not a good day at the office but our Senegalese danger man got a goal and an assist to keep Liverpool in contention only for our backline to let us down.
A lot to think about going forward for Klopp, Matip’s importance in the team and how he’s missed was on full display today as Lovren suffered to make any headway with the new partnership with Lucas Leiva. Upfront, we missed Coutinho as his absence and the corresponding flair and creativity that gives opponents a lot to think about wasn’t there and Bournemouth took full advantage of both absences to get a famous home win over title contenders, Liverpool.