After going over three months undefeated in all competitions Jurgen Klopp’s Reds were beginning to look unstoppable. Having firmly rooted themselves within the top four of the Premier League and placed themselves in a League Cup semi-final it all seemed to be looking up for a Liverpool side that has been so used to underachieving over the past few years. A trip to Bournemouth was ostensibly an ideal opportunity for Liverpool to keep the pressure on title leaders Chelsea and continue their long unbeaten streak.
However, it seemed it was not to be on this day as Eddie Howe’s side mounted an impressive second half comeback, overcoming a 2 goal deficit and beating Liverpool 4-3, a result that brought tears of joy to the faces of Bournemouth supporters and tears of sorrow and anger to the faces of Liverpool fans.
It only served to exacerbate the frustrations of the fans that Liverpool made it all look so easy throughout the entirety of the first half. The fluidity of the build-up play in midfield and speed and tempo of the passing made it so Bournemouth couldn’t get a look-in.
The quality of play from the Reds was capped with two wonderful goals from Sadio Mane and Divock Origi. The goal from the Belgian striker was particularly eye-catching as the 21-year-old frontman rounded Artur Boruc before curling in an audacious effort from an improbable angle, 20 yards from goal.
With the way Liverpool were playing it is hard to deny they created too few chances for themselves to distance themselves from Bournemouth when they had the chance. Crucially though, they failed to do so and subsequently paid the ultimate price.
Eddie Howe’s men came out the gates flying in the second half, looking to be invigorated by their half-time team talk. On the other hand, Liverpool looked to be static and complacent, all too confident the game had already been won.
The turning point in the match seemed to be the introduction of Ryan Fraser who came on for the injured Junior Stanislas and then immediately earned a Penalty as James Milner brought down the former Ipswich man after he was on the pitch for no longer than 2 minutes.
Callum Wilson comfortably converted the resulting spot kick, sending Loris Karius the wrong way and putting his side back in the contest. A third Liverpool goal looked to have put the contest beyond all doubt as Emre Can netted a beautiful effort from the edge of the box, restoring the visitor’s 2 goal lead.
In the end, it was a matter of centimeters that denied Liverpool from claiming all three points as a Milner corner was very nearly carried over the line by Boruc as he claimed the ball for himself. Had goal-line technology not yet been implemented perhaps the Reds would’ve been granted a fourth, it was indeed such a fine margin.
However, no one had planned for the inspired performance from Fraser who pulled one back for Bournemouth, just 15 minutes away from time. From there the home side continued to take advantage of Liverpool’s lapse in concentration as defender Steve Cook converted from an inch-perfect Fraser cross to pull the scores level.
In the closing stages of the match, each side had their chances to claim all 3 points although it was the home team that was able to capitalise on their opportunities. After a Steve Cook shot was fumbled by Karius it was Chelsea loanee Nathan Aké who capitalised on the German’s mistake and gave Bournemouth the deciding goal, making it 4-3 a completing what was a nightmare outcome for the Reds.
After the game, many fans were left wondering where it all went wrong, how could a team that has been so formidable all season let a 3-1 lead slip in the last 15 minutes in a match that should’ve been decided in the first half.
Undoubtedly the quality of play in the second half was simply too slow and too lackadaisical. The intensity of play that seemed to come so natural to Klopp’s men in the first half was lost and subsequently, so too was the game.
It is evident that Cameroon centre-back Joel Matip was sorely missed as the defence looked to lack confidence when dealing with Bournemouth’s attacks. The amount of confidence and security the former Schalke man brings to the Liverpool back line is something that has been needed for many years and subsequently, the defence looked lost without him.
With the Liverpool side looking to be so injury stricken at this moment in time with Coutinho, Matip, Sturridge, Ings and now potentially Mané ruled out following his early substitution on Sunday, should the Reds suffer any further injuries the consequential setback could potentially cause a major lapse in form around such a crucial time in the holiday period.
The resilience shown in so many of the Red’s recent outings was not on display on the south coast and the ultimate price was paid as Liverpool fell to third place in the Premier League, having been hot on the heels of league leaders Chelsea for so long.
The next outing for Klopp’s men comes on familiar ground at Anfield on Sunday 11th against an ailing West Ham United side who have failed to win in their previous five Premier League fixtures. Supporters will be hoping West Ham’s stark contrast to their form last season will provide the perfect opportunity for the Reds to get back to winning ways.