Bournemouth 1 King 94'
Liverpool 2 Firmino 41', Sturridge 47'
While Liverpool have not lost against AFC Bournemouth in eight competitive meetings, it was a solitary Christian Benteke goal that set the two teams apart in their last Premier League meeting. In truth, the margin may have been closer than that, as league officials admitted after the match that Benteke's goal should have been ruled offside.
Eddie Howe's men, sitting comfortably above the relegation fracas and a mere three points removed from the top half of the table, will no doubt have seen this as an opportunity to right that earlier wrong, and to take advantage of a Liverpool side that might be drained physically and mentally by their titanic tussle with Borussia Dortmund in the middle of the week.
From Liverpool's perspective, manager Jürgen Klopp sought to mitigate some of the post-Dortmund hangover by naming no less than ten new faces to the starting lineup, with several younger faces mixed in with regulars. Connor Randall and Brad Smith served as bookends to Kolo Touré and Lucas Leiva, while Danny Ward was the beneficiary of a rare Simon Mignolet absence. Elsewhere, Kevin Stewart made a reappearance, with the likelihood of more action in the future in light of Emre Can's injury.
The infusion of new faces and fresh legs was called upon to apply early pressure on Bournemouth, and the home side looked distinctly discomfited by Liverpool's harrying in the initial exchanges, misplaying a number of passes upon which the visitors were unable to capitalize to meaningful effect. Once they rode the initial wave of pressure, Bournemouth looked to create some chaos of their own, waiting to pounce on errors from an experimental side with limited time together on the big stage, and using their physicality to good effect.
And errors there were, from both the visiting younger faces as well as from the regulars. Fortunately for Liverpool, Joe Allen once again warmed to the role of both destroyer and creator of worlds in midfield, disrupting Bournemouth's efforts on the break while constantly probing for soft spots for Sturridge, Ojo, and Ibe to exploit. Aside from the odd moment of panic from set pieces at either end, chances, clear or otherwise, were few and far between for both sides.
Mere minutes away from the interval, Liverpool conjured up two goals from almost nothing. Ojo and Ibe, who both looked lively throughout the contest, linked up well yet again before the latter found Sturridge in the box with his back to the goal. One of the Liverpool's striker's most eye-catching qualities is a gift for improvisation, which he displayed once more with his back-heeled attempt on Artur Boruc's goal. Bournemouth's keeper, caught by surprise, was only able to parry into the path of a lurking Roberto Firmino, who had an easy tap-in for the opener. Moments later, Ibe chipped a free kick into the box, and a virtually unchallenged Sturridge was allowed to guide his header past a helpless Boruc.
Liverpool stayed in control immediately following the restart, causing panic off corners (in the opposition box for once instead of their own), one of which culminated in a Firmino volley that was lashed just wide. Opportunities for Bournemouth, when they were able to push numbers forward, were snuffed out, more than once by an impressively decisive Danny Ward in goal.
Bournemouth grew into the contest as the second half progressed, increasingly forcing hurried clearances from a backline that, while effective, was never built to soothe frayed nerves. Josh King got the better of Mamadou Sakho, who had just been called into action in place of Touré, surging past the Liverpool defender and into a one-vs.-one situation, but miraculously failed to score, thanks to the combined efforts of Ward and a recovering Sakho who did just enough to frustrate the Bournemouth forward.
With the match winding down to its seemingly inevitable denouement, Bournemouth continued to push and pull against the Liverpool rearguard, but were unable to make their pressure count. Sturridge found himself taking possession from ever deeper positions, while around him, Divock Origi and Adam Lallana were summoned in place of Firmino and Ibe.
Deep into stoppage time, the hosts finally found a way past Ward. King was the culprit, chesting a lofted ball amidst no small amount of Liverpool attention, but doing well to take advantage of space and finish powerfully. It was a deserved reward for a dogged performance from King and his teammates. Fortunately for the visitors, this was not to be a repeat of the calamity at St. Mary's, and this time they left with all three points in hand. Ultimately, this was a fair result mixed in with encouraging signs from the youth. More hard work is on the horizon with the Merseyside derby looming, and Klopp will once again have to figure out how to integrate his younger players with the restless few.