Team News: Liverpool were once again missing big names as Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana were joined by Sadio Mane on the side-lines. As a result, Lucas continued in central midfield and Divock Origi came in to lead the line. The other issue came at centre-back where Joël Matip wasn’t 100% fit so Ragnar Klavan started instead.
Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner, Lucas, Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Origi, Firmino
Subs used: Matip
Liverpool’s achilles heel reared its ugly head once again as the Reds missed a golden opportunity to all but clinch a top four place by drawing 2-2 with Bournemouth. And whilst the Champions League is still very much there for the taking, the same old feelings of exasperation and negativity will be surrounding Anfield as Liverpool once again let a lead slip late on against Bournemouth.
Things started and ended badly for the Reds, with an early goal from Benik Afobe putting them behind after a truly wretched backpass from Georginio Wijnaldum, and a late goal from Josh King earning Bournemouth a huge point. But in between there were plenty of positives for Liverpool fans to take.
After Afobe chased down Wijnaldum’s pass to slot past Mignolet, the home team responded well, putting pressure immediately on the opposition, Firmino and Wijnaldum both shooting from range and Divock Origi unable to control the ball in the box when gifted a great opening.
However, for all the Reds’ good play Bournemouth always looked dangerous on the rare occasions they made it into Liverpool’s half, with Marc Pugh firing wide when gifted a golden break from a corner.
Nevertheless it was the home team that hit back, with lovely footwork from Roberto Firmino freeing Phil Coutinho, who almost lost his footing before firing past Boruc to make it 1-1 just before half time.
And Liverpool came out for the second half in good form, totally dominating the game and threatening to take the lead when Nathaniel Clyne’s rocket of an effort hammered back off the crossbar. But it was a piece of magic from Wijnaldum that got his team back into the game, a jinking run and deft cross headed in by Origi.
And Liverpool threatened to kill the game with incisive counter-attacking football and multiple opportunities off set pieces but couldn’t manage to do so, either through brilliant Bournemouth defending or poor decision making in the final third. And Liverpool were made to pay the price as a half cleared long throw landed at the feet of Josh King, who turned Klavan with ridiculous ease to fire in.
And so Liverpool’s top four hopes took another blow, but continue to be in their own hands as both Manchester clubs continued to stutter and teams around the Reds still have to play each other. But with just seven games to go, more results like this one cannot be afforded.
Key Talking Points
Tactical switch fails to see it out
At 2-1, Klopp chose to switch to a 3-5-2 and bring off Phil Coutinho. But whilst Liverpool looked very solid with the defensive shift, and Bournemouth didn’t seem to be causing any problems, it doesn’t matter what formation you’re playing if your team cannot defend simple set pieces. Liverpool failed to clear the ball properly, Klavan was embarrassingly beaten in a one-on-one inside the box and Bournemouth were level.
Tale of two moments for Gini Wijnaldum
Liverpool’s man of 2017 so far had a really mixed match. His backpass for Bournemouth’s first goal was absolutely awful, and Wijnaldum struggled to impact the game in the first half, with his confidence possibly dented. But a beautiful run and deft cross showed the other side of Wijnaldum’s game, and he earned his forgiveness with that terrific assist.
Front three step up in Mane’s absence
With Sadio Mane’s season-ending injury hanging over Liverpool, Divock Origi stepped up in his absence, running the line well and scoring a neat header to show that he’s still an excellent option to have playing up front. But the other two did their jobs superbly too, with Roberto Firmino Liverpool’s best player from the right hand side and Coutinho scoring too.
Simon Mignolet – 6/10: Spectator again. Arguably could have done better for the first goal but caught on his heels by Wijnaldum’s pass. Some good catches and punches, a side of his game that has really improved.
Nathaniel Clyne – 7/10: Looked very dangerous second half, with a brilliant rifled effort hitting the bar and some excellent crosses. Defensively solid as he usually is.
Dejan Lovren – 6/10: Quiet and unspectacular from Lovren today. Defended well enough without doing anything particularly well or badly.
Ragnar Klavan – 5/10: Caught out of position a couple of times as per usual, but overall didn’t do a lot wrong until he got turned inside his own box with a couple of minutes to go. Embarrassing.
James Milner – 7/10: I thought Milner had a much better game today. Defended well, made some crucial challenges and interceptions at key moments and good distribution in the opposition half, including for the second goal.
Lucas Leiva – 6/10: Very Lucas performance this. Plenty of strong tackles, but looked dangerously short on pace on occasion and was lucky not to get sent off. Booked for an awful tackle and then gave away another poor challenge. Otherwise solid.
Emre Can – 7/10: A lot of huff and puff from Emre. Whilst his passing accuracy was low again, it was because he was trying a lot of difficult passes and as a result clocked three key passes. Plenty of solid tackles and a couple of take-ons too. Solid performance.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6/10: One that required a lot of thought. I thought Gini played well, didn’t give the ball away much, worked hard in the midfield, without really doing a lot. But his brilliant piece of assist play doesn’t make up for the horrendous backpass that cost the first goal so it levels out at a 6.
Phillipe Coutinho – 7/10: Decent performance from Couts. Looked sharp and took his goal very well. Shame that he felt a bit ill and couldn’t continue but a passing accuracy of 89%, two key passes and three take-ons demonstrates he’s back somewhere close to his best.
Divock Origi 7/10: Really good stuff in this one from Divock. Worked very hard, won free-kicks, won aerial duels, completed take-ons. Led the line well and showed what he’s good at with really intelligent movement to poach a goal in the six yard box.
Roberto Firmino – 8/10: Lots of talk that Firmino can’t play off the wing but he was excellent in this game. Four key passes, including a brilliant assist for Coutinho’s goal, and a couple of stinging efforts that tested Boruc. Great display from Bobby.
Man of the Match: Roberto Firmino
Written by Tom Holmes