This was more like it from Liverpool. The victory against Bournemouth was comfortable and was an admirable response to Manchester City overtaking them in midweek, albeit having played a game extra. Liverpool were quicker and more progressive against a Bournemouth team that struggled to stand their ground after conceding the opening goal.
‘Unity is strength’
Jurgen Klopp’s programme notes laid it bare; he was disappointed with the performance against West Ham last Monday and called for ‘unity’. In their past two matches Liverpool have struggled to assert themselves on their opponents, West Ham in particular. The disjointed midfield was the area in which Liverpool appeared lacklustre but with Georginio Wijnaldum back alongside Naby Keita and Fabinho, the midfield was more cohesive and dominant.
The lethargy and indecisiveness that had begun to emanate recently with the pressures and tensions of a proper title race developing were non-existent here. This was a return of the Liverpool of a month or so ago. They were full of energy, pressing relentlessly and counterattacking effectively. The crowd had as much a part to play in this as the players as this was a showing of togetherness, although Bournemouth were not the toughest of challenges.
Wijnaldum back with a goal
Wijnaldum has been sorely missed of late, as has Jordan Henderson in central midfield. But it is important to note that some midfield variety is important in keeping things fresh and unpredictable for opponents, and by using Keita and Fabinho Liverpool have a nice combination of creation and construction. Though Wijnaldum and Henderson would definitely feature in Klopp’s first choice midfield trio.
Wijnaldum returned here after 10 days sidelined with a knee injury and put in an effective and efficient display. He is becoming the growing linchpin of Liverpool’s midfield and harried as furiously as he attacked. He also scored his second goal of the season to double Liverpool’s lead in the 34th minute; Wijnaldum showed neat control to reach an inspired ball forward from Andy Robertson before lifting a delicate shot over Artur Boruc.
Liverpool not as clinical as they could be
With goals from Mo Salah and Sadio Mane accompanying Wijnaldum’s, Liverpool were in the end clear winners but they could have scored more had their finishing been more collected. In the final 30 minutes or so, the hosts had a plethora of chances to breach Boruc’s goal for a fourth time but the goal never came.
Having conceded the third goal straight after the half time break, Bournemouth had their backs against the wall for much of the second half and were at times effectively picked off by Liverpool’s attack. Roberto Firmino was much more at ease as the figurehead of the forward line and was unselfish with both his movement and passes.
Salah was livelier than he has been recently and his cool finish was the 20th that he’d dispatched this season in all competitions. He then went on to hit the bar with only Boruc to beat before Keita, Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold – who came on for the final 10 minutes to great applause – missed gilt-edged chances. The margin of victory could have been greater, but it was the result that mattered.
Bournemouth unlucky with Liverpool’s opener
And yet the result could have been different had Bournemouth taken a great goalscoring chance minutes into the match. Ryan Fraser was gifted time in the second minute to position himself and shoot at goal but Alisson was able to beat away the attempt. It was an opportunity that had Bournemouth taken would certainly have played into the nerves that Liverpool have been showing of late.
But apart from Jefferson Lerma firing a shot over the crossbar shortly after half time, it was the only clear chance that the visitor’s created; Howe’s side could only sit back and try to frustrate Liverpool for the main. They did, however, have a right to be frustrated with Liverpool’s opening goal as there was a fractional offside which Howe said afterwards is the type of officiating decision that is going against his side at the moment.
Howe’s side were let off lightly
This was Bournemouth’s eight consecutive away defeat in the league since travelling to Craven Cottage in late October and despite hitting Chelsea for four recently, they were unable to get to grips with Liverpool’s movement here. James Milner and Robertson were afforded a reduced defensive workload and were able to flourish in attacking on either flank, often finding success in the inside channels.
But despite Bournemouth’s inconsistencies – and they must have them as otherwise they would be top of the league – they again showed that they aim to play in the right way. There were glimpses of the qualities of Josh King, Callum Wilson and Jordan Ibe but nothing sustained.
In the end Liverpool didn’t have to rue missed chances as this win put the pressure on City who face Chelsea on Sunday. This toing and froing is going to continue for the foreseeable you sense, but this was a result that Klopp’s side needed after a testing week. This was controlled and comfortable for Liverpool but a little more ruthlessness will be needed in the tests to come.