Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool: Firmino and Sturridge steer much-changed Reds towards three points

Despite Josh King's late goal, Liverpool managed to see out a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth thanks to goals from Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino before half-time at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.

Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool: Firmino and Sturridge steer much-changed Reds towards three points
(Picture: Getty Images)
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Bournemouth: Boruc; Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels; Ritchie (Wilson, min. 77), Gosling, Surman, Stanislas (Grabban, min. 45); Gradel (Pugh, min. 59), King.
Liverpool: Ward; Randall, Touré (Sakho, min. 67), Lucas, Smith; Allen, Stewart; Ibe (Lallana, min. 77), Ojo, Firmino (Origi, min. 76); Sturridge.
SCORE: 0-1, min. 41, Firmino. 0-2, min. 45+2, Sturridge. 1-2, min. 90+3, King.
REFEREE: Mike Jones (ENG). No bookings.
INCIDENTS: Barclays Premier League matchday 33 clash between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at the Vitality Stadium, in front of 11,464 supporters.

Liverpool claimed a third successive victory in all competitions at a sun-soaked Vitality Stadium as they battled to a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon.

Roberto Firmino's tap-in put the visitors ahead on 41 minutes after Daniel Sturridge's inventive backheel forced Artur Boruc to push the ball into his path, before the striker headed Jordon Ibe's free-kick beyond the goalkeeper in first-half stoppage-time to put Liverpool in command.

Sturridge's second-half chip hit the post as they chased a third goal to kill off the game, but they could not find it, which meant they were forced to survive some pressure from the home side. That eventually paid off when Bournemouth made it 2-1 through Josh King.

But their comeback came too late as the striker's 93rd-minute effort couldn't prevent the Reds from claiming another three points to lift them up to seventh in the Barclays Premier League, with a game in hand against Everton on Wednesday night presenting the chance to climb the table further.

Klopp rings the changes for Reds' trip to South Coast

Jürgen Klopp made 10 changes to the Liverpool team that overcame Borussia Dortmund in the second-leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night, handing out league debuts to the likes of Connor Randall and goalkeeper Danny Ward.

Sheyi Ojo and Kevin Stewart made their second consecutive starts just a week after making their Premier League debuts a week ago against Stoke City, with Ojo joining Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and the returning Jordon Ibe, featuring for his first appearance since mid-January, in a pacy front four.

Klopp named a youthful team at the Vitality, with Firmino the only player to keep his place from midweek. (Picture: Getty Images)
Klopp named a youthful team, with Firmino the only player to keep his place from midweek. (Picture: Getty Images)

With the Reds' side consisting of six Academy players, Lucas Leiva added some much-needed experience as he captained the side and started for the first time since the Capital One Cup final in February, with Brad Smith also making a first ever top-flight start to add to a handful of cup appearances.

Eddie Howe and Bournemouth made just a single change from the team that beat Aston Villa 2-1 away from home last weekend, with Junior Stanislas recovering from a hamstring injury to replace Lewis Grabban, who dropped to the bench.

Callum Wilson once again took up a place on the bench after making his first appearance in over six months with a late cameo at Villa, with the striker still the Cherries' top scorer this season with five goals.

Bright start in entertaining end-to-end affair

Frequently misplaced passes led to a great early tempo in an error-strewn start on the part of both sides and almost allowed Daniel Sturridge to establish an early lead for the Reds. Andrew Surman's sloppy backpass fell kindly for the striker after a deflection off of Roberto Firmino but from the edge of the area, Sturridge could only fire straight at the waiting Boruc.

In a lively opening, both teams looked capable of forcing openings, but the Cherries grew into the game with defender Steve Cook heading over from a cross into the back post after seven minutes, before Matt Ritchie lashed a speculative shot from distance well wide.

It was from a set-piece that Bournemouth came closest to breaking the deadlock on 20 minutes as Liverpool-supporting skipper Tommy Elphick rose above his marker to flick Ritchie's delivery towards goal, but Ward caught well on his debut.

With Firmino struggling to pick the right passes in the final third, Liverpool's main threat came through the pace and trickery of their wide players. Ojo's drop of the shoulder saw him run into the box and evade two challenges from Charlie Daniels and Max Gradel, although Cook stood strong to block his shot before the defender and then Boruc twice denied Randall on the follow-up.

Boruc made another smart save when Joe Allen chipped a ball into Sturridge in the box and his failure to bring the ball into control encouraged Cook to nip in and clear, but the ball deflected back off Sturridge and would have crept inside the near post if not for the Pole's quick reflexes. 

As the half wore on, Liverpool found space increasingly more difficult to find between the lines and found no joy in going long, with Bournemouth boasting an advantage in height at the back. 

As such, chances were few and far between as both teams tussled for control of the game. That was at least until Firmino was on hand to poke home from close range and give his side a lead from almost nowhere.

Lucas Leiva and Firmino celebrate Liverpool's opening goal. (Picture: Getty Images)
Lucas Leiva and Firmino celebrate Liverpool's opening goal. (Picture: Getty Images)

Ibe's strong run down the left and low pass across the box fell to Sturridge, whose powerful backheel forced Boruc into parrying to his right where Firmino lay in waiting to tap in from just a few yards out for his 10th of the season and his first goal on the pitch at the same time as Sturridge.

The striker, on his fourth consecutive league start which marked his best run of games in over two years, almost made it 2-0 immediately after the opener after exchanging passes with Firmino before firing over the crossbar.

But Sturridge finally doubled the lead after winning a free-kick around 25-yards from goal. Ibe stepped up to the set-piece, lifting a ball into the box which Sturridge met with a header to find the bottom corner superbly.

Sturridge hits woodwork as Liverpool look for a third

Although the home side introduced Grabban at half-time, Liverpool came flying out of the blocks and should have secured the three points when Boruc dropped Ibe's corner, but Firmino fired wide from 12-yards.

Sturridge then had the away end already celebrating after Allen stole the ball from Dan Gosling and put the striker through on goal, but his delicate chip - which seemed destined for the bottom corner - fell wide after clipping the outside of the far post in search of his 50th goal for the club.

Liverpool, however, continued to dominate proceedings and Ibe was the next to try his luck after cutting in from the left and firing over the bar, before Firmino's attempt to curl an effort inside the far post fell comfortably for Boruc.

Sturridge rises high to flick a header hope from Ibe's free-kick. (Picture: Getty Images)
Sturridge rises high to flick a header hope from Ibe's free-kick. (Picture: Getty Images)

The home side became more urgent around the hour mark and looked to force a way back into the game, stepping up the tempo as they pushed forward in numbers. They were calling for a penalty after the ball struck the arm of Kolo Touré, only for referee Mike Jones to wave away their claims, before Josh King forced Ward into a strong save after getting the better of Lucas.

Liverpool dealt with their pressure for the most part, themselves looking for a decisive third goal to stave off a Bournemouth comeback. Klopp introduced Mamadou Sakho in place of Touré, who had earlier appeared to go down suffering from a hamstring complaint and limped off in pain, in order to provide more calm and control at the back.

And Sakho was on hand to prevent King coming incredibly close to making it 2-1 within a minute of coming on, as the striker danced away from the French defender and Lucas' challenges before Ward came rushing off his line to narrow down the space, allowing Sakho to recover and get a vital touch to bring the ball away.

With Bournemouth throwing everything at the Reds, Ritchie's header from a Simon Francis cross dropped just wide, it seemed inevitable that they would get on the scoresheet as the pace of the game opened up pockets of space for them to exploit.

Fine King string comes too late for Cherries

On 75 minutes, Klopp brought on Divock Origi - with four goals in his last three games in all competitions - and sent him up front with Sturridge as Wilson replaced Ritchie for the hosts, who now had three strikers on the pitch.

In a flurry of substitutions, Liverpool then made their third and final change of the game with 12 minutes remaining after Ibe had been down receiving treatment and was brought off in place of Adam Lallana, who was greeted by a few boos after leaving the South Coast club for rivals Southampton at the age of 12.

Danny Ward impressed on his debut despite conceding late on. (Picture: Getty Images)
Danny Ward impressed on his debut despite conceding late on. (Picture: Getty Images)

With just eight minutes remaining, Ward made another fine save to deny half-time substitute Grabban - flying high to his left to push the forward's header wide and maintain his team's two-goal advantage.

After the resulting corner, Liverpool launched a quick counter-attack which led to Sturridge receiving the ball in space in the box. However, despite beating Boruc with his powerful strike, he was once again denied by the woodwork as his shot rebounded back off the angle of the crossbar and the post.

Sturridge once again went close in the dying stages by firing a few inches over after cutting inside from Lallana's through ball, before King claimed a consolation for the hosts with an excellent chest control and finish with a minute of added time remaining.

And Bournemouth almost rescued a point after Cook headed over from Marc Pugh's left-sided cross in the final seconds, but Liverpool just survived to see through a third win in eight days.