by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
In a display of ruthless attacking football Liverpool comfortably beat AFC Bournemouth 4-0 at the Vitality Stadium, and re-ignited the Cherries’ relegation fears.
Eddie Howe made five changes after the Cherries’ narrow mid-week defeat to Manchester United, with Andrew Surman, Lewis Cook, Jordon Ibe, Marc Pugh and Jermain Defoe all being handed starts. Callum Wilson was the noticeable absentee from the match day squad with a minor injury setback. Jurgen Klopp also rotated his side after the Reds were held at home to West Brom, recalling Mignolet, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordon Henderson.
But the memories of the Cherries’ impossible comeback from last season were quickly erased, as Liverpool stormed into a comfortable lead. Phillipe Coutinho dribbled forward before producing a moment of brilliance to open the scoring, and Dejan Lovren headed home at the far post to double their lead. Mohamed Salah rounded off the first half with a weaving run and finish, before Firmino headed home after the interval to fire the Reds into a Champions League place.
From the first minute, Liverpool quickly got into their stride in blustery conditions at the Vitality. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain surged down the right-hand side, before delivering to the back post. Coutinho headed towards goal, but could only guide his effort narrowly over the crossbar.
Liverpool then won a free kick after Nathan Ake halted Firmino’s run just outside the area. Coutinho whipped a menacing effort towards the top right corner, but it clipped the inside of the post and rolled away. Moments later Salah was allowed time and space to run towards the penalty area and cut inside, before curling narrowly wide of the far corner.
Bournemouth were forced to be patient as Liverpool kept possession comfortably, and created their first chance in the 20th minute. In a rare misplaced pass from Klopp’s side, Jordon Ibe picked up the ball before shooting straight at Mignolet.
Ibe’s moment of individual skill was more than outmatched by Coutinho, who opened the scoring a minute later. The Brazilian picked up the ball inside the Bournemouth half, before racing into the penalty area. As the Cherries’ defence back pedalled, Coutinho shrugged off Simon Francis with a quick shimmy before drilling home at Asmir Begovic’s near post.
Four minutes later, and it was two-nil to the visitors. A Liverpool corner fell to the back post, where Roberto Firmino did well to keep the ball in and hook it towards the far post. Dejan Lovren was on hand to tuck home a diving header, and pile more pressure on the beleaguered Cherries players.
Things went from bad to worse for Eddie Howe, when Josh King went down with injury and had to be replaced by Junior Stanislas.
The winger was straight into the action, as he played through Jermain Defoe with an incisive ball. The former Sunderland and Spurs man raced in, but thumped an effort against the far post as Mignolet rushed out to narrow the angle.
After the near miss, Liverpool continued to dominate. Roberto Firmino tested Begovic with a low effort, which the Bosnian held onto well with Salah closing in. The Egyptian, who has been in scintillating form this season, was then played through over the top but Begovic saved well again as he raced out to smother.
But on the stroke of half time, the away side found the back of the net again. Salah picked up possession on the right side of the penalty area, and skipped inside as Charlie Daniels looked to shepherd him out. The Liverpool forward then curled a left footed effort that nestled into the bottom left corner, sparking jubilation in one corner of the Vitality.
Ryan Fraser replaced the ineffectual Marc Pugh at half-time, as Eddie Howe looked to find a route back into the game. The evening then went from bad to worse for the Cherries boss, when Charlie Daniels went down with injury and had to be replaced by Steve Cook.
The defensive shakiness nearly ended up in a fourth goal for Klopp’s men, when Oxlade-Chamberlain weaved into the box and clipped an effort against Begovic’s near post.
Jermain Defoe was then presented with a chance to get the Cherries on the scoresheet in the 63rd minute. The striker latched onto a chipped ball over the top of the Liverpool defence, but could only watch on as his low effort was well palmed away by Mignolet.
Just minutes later, Liverpool scored another. Phillipe Coutinho turned from scorer to provider, as he delicately bent in a delivery that was met by the head of the diving Firmino, who guided the effort past Begovic for four-nil.
As the clock ticked closer to 90 the Cherries’ resolve seemed to disappear, similar to the departing masses at the Vitality. Coutinho nearly grabbed himself a second when a low delivery was fizzed in just beyond his reach, before Ings fired narrowly wide after coming on for the tricky Brazilian.
Deep into added time, the away side looked to carve a way through again. Dominic Solanke tested Begovic, before Adam Lallana stooped to narrowly head over the rebound.
Andre Marriner then blew for full-time, and brought an end to a miserable evening for Bournemouth. The Cherries sit in 16th, just one point above the relegation zone, and face a tricky away trip to runaway leaders Manchester City in their next game. Liverpool, meanwhile, stretch their unbeaten run to nine games and have risen into the final Champions League spot.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Phillipe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Bournemouth: Begovic, Smith, Francis, Ake, Daniels, Ibe, Surman, L. Cook, Pugh, King, Defoe
Subs: Boruc, S. Cook, Gosling, Arter, Afobe, Stanislas, Fraser
Liverpool: Mignolet, Gomez, Klavan, Lovren, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coutinho, Firmino, Salah
Subs: Karius, Milner, Mane, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold
Referee: Andre Marriner