AFC Bournemouth 0 - 4 Liverpool FC
Liverpool: Nuñez (49’, 90+3’), Jota (70’, 80’)
Liverpool entered the match seeking to open up a five point lead on their rivals in the title chase, while in the midst of a minor injury crisis and missing two key players due to international duty. Meanwhile, Manchester City has reintroduced Kevin De Bruyne and Jeremy Doku, with the likes of Erling Haaland hoping to return in a few weeks. We are literally in the “gotta win them all” phase of the Premier League grind that is unique to this era of high spending with no repercussions.
Bournemouth start the match off in pretty fast-pace, earning 3 corners in the first 5 minutes of play. The Cherries’ press is energetic and effective at not allowing Liverpool players to settle and play.
A lot of credit is owed to Bournemouth’s defensive shape and structure as they’ve managed to harry and generally force Liverpool away from what the Reds would prefer in offensively. The Cherries have really made Liverpool look uncomfortable for most of this half. Will say, though, the Reds’ long ball game looked pretty good as a tactic to stretch the defense. Ibrahima Konate, Alexis Mac Allister, and Virgil Van Dijk each had pretty switches played in that half.
It took 25 minutes for the Reds to earn their first corner and then a brilliant deep cross from Harvey Elliott towards Darwin Nuñez earned them their second a minute later. Liverpool look settled and the bulk of play has now been had in Bournemouth’s half.
Liverpool’s possession looks quite calm and controlled. They’re finding small breaks as various players alternate runs to break the Bournemouth line, but the Cherries remain resolute and organized, seeing out the threats. You do sense, though, that this Liverpool certainly have goals in them.
Bournemouth find their footing again in the last two-three minutes of the half, putting a decent chance in and generally forcing play. The clubs will go into the half level with some perhaps wondering if the Cherries should be down to 10 men given Justin Kluivert stamping on Luis Diaz’s ankle. It was certainly a rash challenge and there’s no doubt that we’ve seen cards handed out for it before. If there’s any real issue here it’s that Kluivert manages to escape any booking at all.
Liverpool will enter half time likely discussing the quarter and half chances that went begging, as well as the runs that ended with an over hit pass. A little more accuracy is what’s being called for here.
No changes to either side to start the half. No surprise for Bournemouth who will certainly be hoping for more of the same from that first half. Liverpool don’t typically make half-time subs so no surprise here either, though they’ll again be hoping for more accuracy, especially with balls in the attacking third.
GOAL!!! Darwin Nuñez scores but this goal requires a few plaudits as Konate plays another exquisite long ball to Curtis Jones, who controls and plays it into Diogo Jota, who slots it towards Darwin. It was a phenomenal team goal and the type of accuracy that was required to exploit the space our runners have found throughout the match. Less than four minutes into the second frame, this is exactly the start the Reds have hoped for.
There’s a penalty shout as Diogo Jota is brought down. We don’t want to spend too much time on the refereeing because it’s been pretty abysmal all season but replays show what look like a clear trip in the box.
Much like the rest of the season has played out, that first goal has really made the match more open for the Reds. They look much more threatening as Bournemouth scramble in search of an equalizer.
It’s taken till the 59th minute but we have confirmation that ref Andy Madley does, in fact, possess cards as he puts Lewis Cook into the book. Meanwhile, the Cherries manage to spring a counter after Liverpool’s own failed attack and I just want to big up something here that I’ve noticed has happened all season: Darwin Nuñez tracking back and defending - this time against James Tavernier - and generally making himself enough of a nuisance to just slow the attack. He’s not the only attacker I’ve seen do this but I really do love how Klopp has really made all phases of the team work in sync with each other. It’s the dream of all coaches, I think, to see their team defend and attack as a team. That sees all parts of the game as a shared responsibility. Somewhere, Bill Shankly is smiling.
GOAL!!! Another industrious team goal, this time with Diogo Jota being the one to slot it into the net! It starts with a great ball up to Darwin Nuñez, who uses his strength to bring it down. Cody Gakpo follows behind to mop up the loose ball and put it right into the path of Jota who makes absolutely no mistake while smashing it into the Bournemouth net. Would be hard pressed to suggest that this scoreline isn’t reflective of how the match has played out, with Liverpool’s composed and patient possession finally getting its reward.
Bournemouth put Liverpool under pressure in the 76th minute but the combination of Virgil Van Dijk and Ibou Konate ensure the ball never reaches Alisson. The lads are fired up and you’ve gotta love what this center-back pairing brings in terms of quality. Ibou in particular is in with a shout for Man of the Match, for me, given the shift he’s put in. VVD wouldn’t be a bad call either, but Konate has been electric.
GOAL!!! Another Jota goal! This time, he cleans up his own mess as he bundles in a mishit after a cross from Conor Bradley.
Bournemouth unfortunately will play out the final 3 minutes of regulation+injury time down a man due to an injury to defender Max Aarons.
GOAL!!! Darwin Nuñez with a terrific, instinctive finish off of the outside of his foot from a gorgeous, looping cross from Joe Gomez. Gomez, it must be said, has had another terrific match at the back for Liverpool.
Full time and all three points!! Hooray!
Liverpool secure the three points, putting pressure on their rivals in the title chase as they open up a five point gap at the top of the Premier League table ahead of Manchester City and Arsenal. Life in this era of Premier League play means that a title will require intense consistency, with wins being almost entirely the only result acceptable.
Liverpool have done that with this win, but have also managed to remind the league of what they look like when they’re clicking across all phases of the pitch. And while it’s true that this is what they’ve looked like most of the season, it’s worth noting they’re doing this without Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson, and Wataru Endo. They’re doing this with their third choice at both fullback positions and relying on youth to take significant roles (Jones, Elliott, Quansah, and now Conor Bradley).
It’s just one win but it’s the type of win one can look at at the end of a good year and find it as an example of what’s going well for the team in terms of tactics, training, and general growth. Up the fighting Reds!