Somewhat under fire after back to back draws, Liverpool laid down a marker of their intent in the title race with a rampant 3-0 victory over Bournemouth at Anfield overnight on Sunday.
Liverpool took the lead in the 24th minute when James Milner picked out a superb cross in the second phase of a corner, with Sadio Mane ghosting between Bournemouth’s defensive set up and thumping a header into the ground and into the net.
Georginio Wijnaldum scored a sublime second for the hosts when, making a deep run from midfield, he latched onto a ball over the top of the Bournemouth defence from Andrew Robertson, before bringing it under control and lobbing Artur Boruc superbly on the half volley.
Immediately after the interval Liverpool made it three with another blistering and brilliant goal. Naby Keita played Roberto Firmino in behind who shaped to shoot before back heeling to a surging Mohamed Salah, with the simple task of slotting into the bottom left corner left to the Egyptian.
Salah would later hit the crossbar in search of a brace and his 50th Premier League goal in Liverpool colours, as Mane, Firmino and Keita all also missed chances to heap further misery on the Cherries.
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 10, 2019
Back to business
With pressure seemingly building on the back of two lacklustre performances, Liverpool needed to win and win convincingly in order to prove that they are still favourites to lift the Premier League trophy.
The Anfield faithful made sure to step up their game on the pitch, arriving early to the game in their thousands and singing their team on to an emphatic victory. A collective response was needed, and Jurgen Klopp highlighted unity as being the club’s biggest strength during the week, a togetherness that was shown all around Anfield here.
On the pitch, the Reds rediscovered their mojo, initiating their relentless pressing high up the pitch and transition into attack with their typical pace and ruthlessness.
There was a marked improvement from Firmino, who was one of Liverpool’s poorest performers against West Ham, demonstrating the sharpness, quickness of thought and technical brilliance that makes him one of the top strikers in the division.
Much maligned for a string of timid displays and failing to live up to the price tag and hype surrounding his arrival, Keita put in his best performance for Liverpool, winning the ball back in good areas and distributing cleanly to his teammates, showing what Reds fans can expect to see more of in future.
The crowd support was back, the gegenpress was back, the counter-attacking and link-up play was back, and Liverpool are back in the winner’s circle and will be looking to continue this form into the remaining 12 games of the season.
Bournemouth’s bogey team
Since taking four points off Liverpool in the 2016-17 season, which included their sensational 4-3 comeback victory, Bournemouth have not only failed to take a point off Klopp’s side, but have not breached their goal in four games.
In fact, this season’s meetings have become a carbon copy of their clashes of last season, with the Reds prevailing 4-0 at the Vitality, and running out 3-0 winners on their own home turf in both seasons.
Bournemouth actually started the match very well and Ryan Fraser drew the first save of the match from Alisson within 90 seconds as the Reds hardly touched the ball inside the opening couple of minutes.
From then on, however, Eddie Howe had no answer for what Klopp and his Liverpool team threw at his players as they tried to work a way back into the game. That effort from Fraser would be one of only two attempts on target for the visitors as they were outclassed by their superior opponents. Bournemouth’s display was not particularly bad, but more so they were beaten fair and square by Liverpool’s tremendous performance.
When on the ball, the likes of Fraser and former Red Jordon Ibe showed good pace and industry to bounce back on the front foot, but they struggled to deliver any kind of service into Joshua King who was swallowed by Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip at the heart of the opposing defence.
To Howe’s credit, he made positive substitutions in bringing on another former Liverpool man in Dominic Solanke as well as Lys Mousset up front, but ultimately the absences of Callum Wilson and David Brooks were unable to be filled as offered little to chip away at Liverpool’s lead.
Liverpool’s most important player
There is often talk in football over the debate between ‘the best’ player in a team and ‘the most important’ player in the team, as they do not always mean the same thing. Mo Salah is Liverpool’s best player, no questions asked. He is one of the best attackers in world football, and alongside Mane and Firmino he strikes fear into all defences he faces.
In terms of the most important player, however, that player that the Reds struggle without when they are not in the side, there is more of a debate. If Salah does not play, Firmino and Mane are still there to shoulder some of the load, Xherdan Shaqiri can come in, as well as the likes of Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge.
One player who proved his case to be recognised as an integral piece in the Liverpool squad was Georginio Wijnaldum; the Dutchman putting in a man of the match display in this game.
Struggling for fitness in recent weeks, the Reds’ midfield has been worse off without his tenacity, his guile and the work ethic and class that he brings each time he crosses the white line. Liverpool’s midfield was cut to pieces on the counter-attack against West Ham, as was it against Crystal Palace, both games in which the 28-year-old did not feature.
Back in the side, and later revealed to have been recovering from illness, Wijnaldum showed exactly what he means to Klopp’s set-up and how underrated he is, cutting out balls through the middle of the pitch, winning balls back and getting forward with deep, powerful runs from midfield.
It was a performance that deserved a goal and could have seen more than one but for the Dutchman being too unselfish at times, and he got what he deserved as he bids to be an integral part of Liverpool’s title run-in.