LFC Toronto Match Review: Bournemouth 1 – 0 Liverpool FC

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Match Review: Bournemouth 1 - 0 Liverpool FC

For those of us in Canada who woke up practically at dawn for this early Saturday kick-off, the mid-morning must have felt very much like the morning after a feisty party the night before.

Further to last Sunday’s euphoria, most of us ushered into this weekend still buzzing. But then after 90 minutes against Bournemouth, we are now soberingly pondering on what will it take to finally build a proper momentum to ensure that a top 4 finish is not left hanging in the balance until the last weekend of this roller-coaster season.

At the Vitality Stadium, we have again seen that facet of Liverpool which unexplainably came away empty handed from their travels to the likes of Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Brighton and Wolves.

In the same vein as the January horror show at Brighton, is it the long trek from Merseyside down to England’s South Coast that is the hard-to-put-the-finger-on explanation which we are struggling to come to terms with? In fact, when Portsmouth were still in the Premier League, Fratton Park was another venue we did not relish to visit.

Contrary to what eventually followed-up, Liverpool did have a decent start in this encounter on which laid enormous hope that the Reds would rest their case of having definitely turned the corner.

A Virgil Van Dijk header was spectacularly cleared off the line by Jefferson Lerma. Andy Robertson attempted a firm shot from the left but Cherries keeper Neto pulled an equally firm save. Cody Gakpo put the ball at the back of the net but the effort was chalked off because of offside.

All that inside the first 15 minutes.

High and low

Flirting with a high seems to be Liverpool’s own subsequent nemesis. After coming that close to a quadruple last year, we are now seeing a head scratching season which we would have never thought possible merely some months ago.

And just like with the quadruple attempt, the ensuing disappointment of those early misses against the Cherries looked to have had a deflating impact on the team.

Bournemouth capitalized on the situation with a goal on the 29th minute.

An over-the-top ball from their own half found Dango Ouattara down the Cherries’ right channel. The midfielder shrugged off Virgil Van Dijk’s attention (who would have thought that possible against the big Dutchman?) and then cut back for Philip Billing to tap in.

Objectively, it was a well-crafted team effort that disoriented the Liverpool defenders into guessing which of the three Bournemouth players in the Reds’ penalty area would be at the receiving end of Ouattara’s assist pass.

As they are battling relegation, the Cherries would naturally do everything to preserve that precious lead. They organized themselves very well on the pitch, keeping a compact midfield and defence for much of the remainder of the match and were content to absorb the pressure while leaving the initiative to Liverpool.

Judicious tactics as the Reds were themselves quite lacking again in terms of impetus and creativity in going forward. Did the starting XI play a role in that?

Captain Hendo was the only change in the initial line-up after he was by far the best in the pressing aspect of last weekend’s 7-0.

Furthermore, it was a bit puzzling that both defensive midfielders Fabinho and Bacjetic started against a Bournemouth side which left Anfield last August after that 9-0 thumping. Perhaps the Cherries’ near upsetting surprise at Arsenal last weekend influenced Jurgen Klopp’s decision.

With Liverpool obviously not firing on all cylinders, the gaffer threw in the kitchen sink.

At half-time, Diogo Jota replaced Harvey Elliot. Four strikers now on the pitch with Gakpo dropping in an attacking midfield position, presumably his preferred role.

After dispossessing former Reds Dominic Solanke in midfield, Jota himself forced a brilliant Neto flying save with a well taken attempt from the edge of the penalty area.

On the hour, in came James Milner, Hendo and Firmino in lieu of Trent, Fabinho and Nunez. A triple substitution with the captain and vice-captain now on the battlefield to further urge Liverpool forward.

That still wasn’t to be

But Bournemouth defended for their top-flight survival, repelling almost all second balls from which Liverpool were in vain trying to craft something. Also, it didn’t help that the Reds were guilty of several wayward passes and were losing possession rather quite sloppily.

If the stars looked to have so far aligned themselves for the south coast club, a turnaround was thought to be in the offing with a penalty awarded to Liverpool on the 67th for an Adam Smith handball.

Incredibly, this was Liverpool’s very first penalty in the league this season. More incredibly, it still wasn’t to be: Mo Salah hit the ball wide on the left while Bournemouth’s keeper had actually dived the other way.

Another bad day at the office. Alas, that’s becoming all too frequent for the quest of a top 4 finish.

To be fair, Bournemouth got their tactics spot on. Well, manager Gary O’Neil was in charge of Liverpool’s U23 not so long ago before moving to the south coast.

Liverpool’s current shortcomings must unsurprisingly be something which he would have figured out more readily than any other opposing manager.

Mike Chung.