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Liverpool 2, Bournemouth 2: Old Habits Die Hard

So set piece defending and individual errors walk into a bar...

Liverpool v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
It me!
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool 2 Coutinho 40’, Origi 58'
Bournemouth 2 Afobe 7', King 87'

In a familiarly frustrating performance, the Reds went full Liverpool, conceding a soft goal early, battling back to take the lead, then crumbling under a set piece with time running out.

Injuries made selection easy for Jürgen Klopp ahead of tonight's game, as back trouble kept Joël Matip out of the starting line-up, with Ragnar Klavan his replacement, alongside Dejan lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner. The midfield trio of Lucas Leiva, Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can made its return, despite Can's "full-body bruise", while Divock Origi replaced the injured Sadio Mané, leading the line flanked by Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.

The Reds' opening minutes did little to warn of the impending mess, as Firmino tested Boruc from range, and Lucas' first post header on the ensuing corner failed to find a team-mate at the back post. Bournemouth were far from spectators, however, closing down their hosts at every opportunity, denying them the space they craved.

After a few dodgy moments involving Mignolet and Klavan, the Cherries were handed an absolute gift by Wijnaldum seven minutes in, as the Dutchman slid a perfect through ball into Benik Afobe's path, and the former Arsenal youth player made no mistake alone with Simon Mignolet. It is hard to say what Wijnaldum was thinking, as he was looking straight at Afobe when he made the pass, but regardless, Liverpool were again undone by an individual error.

Bournemouth did an excellent job of stifling a quick Liverpool comeback, and were the ones to produce the next big chance, this time from a — can you believe it — set piece. A flicked header found Pugh in acres of space at the back post, but his volley from 6 yards somehow snuck around Mignolet's far post.

Wijnaldum put a shot on target from 20 yards, but Artur Boruc could easily collect, before Coutinho blasted a free kick into the side netting. With the visitors smothering the Reds' attacking play, a different approach was required, and it occurred five minutes from half-time. A lofted ball from Mignolet saw Origi beat his man in the air, knocking it down to Firmino. The Brazilian brought the ball under control and slipped a perfect pass through for his compatriot Coutinho, who just about got the ball out from under his feet in time to dink it past Boruc. Just in time to raise the hosts' spirits before the break.

The second half began with Clyne hammering a 20-yard thunderbolt off the underside of the crossbar, before the same man was inches away from finding Origi's forehead five yards out. The Reds were pinning Bournemouth back, and looked poised to take the lead. It was Wijnaldum who provided, as the Duthman made up for his earlier error with some terrific close control and fancy feet in the visitors' box, before hanging the ball up for Origi at the far post. The Belgian made no mistake from six yards, scoring in his second consecutive match.

Matip came on for Coutinho five minutes later, with the Brazilian worrying every Red in the land by heading straight into the dressing room. Klopp switched formations to a 5-4-1, looking to squash any Bournemouth pressure, while offering very little on the counter. He would've gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling set pieces. Three minutes from time, the ball was badly cleared after a long throw-in and found its way back into the box. Klavan was nudged away much too easily by Josh King, allowing the Norwegian striker — on a 7 in 7 run — to turn and shoot six yards out. The ball snuck past Mignolet and the Reds were undone by their set piece defending yet again.

There was more drama to be had in injury time, with Matip narrowly missing both the far corner and Divock Origi with a header, and Klavan powering a free header from 10 yards straight at Boruc, but in the end, the quality of finishing let the Reds down.

A draw here makes the fight for Champions League spots far more interesting than it needed to be, as all three teams directly behind the Reds can now catch up to or go past them by winning their postponed matches. Familiar foes reared their heads again, as individual errors and defensive set pieces combined with conceding every shot on target — for the sixth time this season — to bring about yet another frustrating night.

Coutinho again showed how fantastic he can be when he is on form, and his leaving the pitch was thankfully only due to illness, as another injury would come as a big blow to a side that is already struggling to stay healthy. Origi had a terrific all-round performance in the lone striker role, but could've scored at least one more, coming up just short on several occasions. Firmino was a mixed bag, as he always is when deployed out wide. The midfield three was clearly leggy and struggled to keep up with their energetic opposition after the hour mark, committing a combined eight fouls on the night. Lovren looked eminently capable, while Klavan showed why he should be fourth choice at the position. Simon Mignolet again failed to make a save, but was let down by his team-mates on both scoring occasions.

It is another quick turnaround for the Reds as they head to twelfth-placed Stoke on Saturday afternoon, looking to put together a strong finish to the season and hopefully hang on to their top four spot.

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