How Liverpool might rue late goals against Bournemouth when the Champions League places are settled.
Eddie Howe’s side was not quite able to repeat the heroics of the Vitality Stadium when turned a 3-1 deficit into victory, but an 86th minute equaliser from Josh King secured a point to prevent Jurgen Klopp’s side putting distance between themselves and their top four chasers.
As the Liverpool manager had suggested, there was more pragmatism than flamboyance on display and a tactical shift after the home side took a second half lead backfired.
Philippe Coutinho, who joined former Middlesbrough winger Juninho as the highest scoring Brazilian in English football with his 29th Liverpool goal, was substituted for another centre back and the momentum shift the home side had enjoyed came to a halt.
Divock Origi headed Liverpool’s second after Benik Ofobe had given the visitors an early lead, the youngster claiming his second in consecutive fixtures having been urged to fill the void left by Sadio Mane.
Kenny Dalglish was sitting on The Kop for the first half as Liverpool paid commemorated the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. The club legend was back in the Directors’ Box as his side asserted its superiority in the early minutes after break, but this was another evening for edging across the line. Liverpool were unable to see it through.
Having benefited from Liverpool’s generosity in the reverse fixture earlier this season, Bournemouth were accepting gifts again.
Georginio Wijnaldum was the culprit on seven minutes, underhitting a backpass to Simon Mignolot to enable Afobe to pounce.
The striker read Wijanldum’s intentions and prodded past the Belgian goalkeeper. This typified Bournemouth’s early energy in contrast to Liverpool initial lethargy.
Eddie Howe opted for an ambitious 4-4-2 and pushed Liverpool back, forcing sloppy passing along the back four and impatient howls from the home crowd.
Klopp, as is often the case in these less glamorous fixtures, was ticking – visibly noting the contrast in mood, tone and volume between this game and the recent visits of Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham. He feels the consistency of performance should extend to all sections of Anfield, not just on the pitch.
He notices every misplaced ball is greeted with more intolerance; he stares puzzled at his new Main Stand when a delay in possession provokes a guttural plea to hit the ball skywards.
Not for the first time this season, from one such moment of simmering tension Liverpool equalised. The crowd beseeched Mignolet to hit long and high but the keeper paused and the audience shrieked. Klopp held his arms to his side quizzically. Then Mignolet obliged, Firmino controlled and eased the ball towards Coutinho, and the Brazilian did the rest from close range five minutes before half-time. Peace and parity restored just before the break.
It had not been coming. Until then Artur Boruc had been restricted to dealing with long range strikes, the most potent came from Wijnaldum seeking to make amends.
This was Liverpool’s latest attempt to excel without Sadio Mane, as well as Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. Inevitably, they were all missed.
Liverpool toiled without Mane in January and for all Klopp’s bravado, he would have been monitoring Divock Origi’s performance in particular to establish if the young Belgian fit the bill as a replacement.
Origi spoke of his frustration after the Merseyside derby but the rawness remains. He is promising in patches, particularly when he moves wide and faces full-backs with a willingness to utilise his pace. That is not often enough.
He should have equalised on 20 minutes when he found space at the backpost, Bournemouth as vulnerable from set-pieces as their hosts. The striker miskicked.
Marc Pugh was similarly frustrated with a more impressive connection at the Kop end as he volleyed an inch wide when Bournemouth’s lead would have been doubled.
There was more tempo from Liverpool at the start of the second half and Nathaniel Clyne was close to a rare but spectacular goal on 48 minutes.
He let rip from 20 yards with his right foot but Boruc managed to fingertip it onto the bar.
It signalled the theme of the rest of the game, Liverpool now dominating their retreating opponent.
Liverpool’s second finally came on 58 minutes with Wijnaldum superbly earning redemption with the assist for Origi.
The Dutchman has strength and skill, and he demonstrated both to work his way into the area before delivering the perfect cross for the striker to head in from four yards.
Taking the lead provoked a pragmatic move from Klopp, replacing Coutinho with centre-half Joel Matip. The Liverpool manager had promised compromise in the run-in, but this was certainly an eye-catching defensive move.
Liverpool settled for playing on the counter-attack in a scrappy finale and succumbed on 86 minutes when after a scramble in the penalty area, King was able to turn and drill beyond Mignolet. Liverpool had ultimately paid for their caution.
Source: Chris Bascombe