Liverpool extended their lead at the pinnacle of the Premier League table by 11 points, courtesy of a convincing, all-round triumph over Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth at the Vitality.
Goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah aided the cause, as a sorry Cherries outfit failed to provide answers to the relentless pressure and quality delivered by the champions-elect.
They did curb their natural attacking game and plotted all bodies behind the ball, but were left stranded by moments of absolute brilliance and innovation. The 19-minute scoring spree on either side of half time buried the game’s fortune, as Liverpool also lengthened their PL unbeaten record to an astonishing 33 matches.
They drove through spaces and most importantly, found not one but many ways of carving through the Bournemouth back line. A series of forays, coupled with patience and the process of probing led to an absolute coup.
On that note, we analyse three prime reasons that led to yet another comprehensive victory for Liverpool.
#1 Mohamed Salah’s return to form in Mane’s absence
Jurgen Klopp trusts the dynamism and of course, variety and flamboyance within his group of players. Last game, the Reds entered the field without Salah, Firmino or Fabinho, while in this one, the former Borussia Dortmund boss made no lesser than seven alterations to the team that took Everton to the cleaners.
Today, it was the in-form Sadio Mane who was given a vital rest. Enter, Mohamed Salah. Well, although he loves feasting against Bournemouth – the only side against whom he possesses a 100% scoring record – it was much-needed for a man who hasn’t quite hit his otherworldly standards yet.
But when Salah looks sharp, the defenders are just drawn out and left in their wake. The winger looked lively as he constantly ran down the channel, toppled it with fantastic first touch and dropped off his line whenever needed to start attacks.
Salah fearlessly executed his pace, trickery and wasn’t shy to go all by himself. And that is when he is most frightening. He may misplace a slew of passes or sky ample chances, but with that bravery, there’s always Salah’s brilliance that comes along.
Take for example, when he outfoxes three red and black shirts with the backheel assist to Keita. Or when under pressure, he made it look all so easy by passing the ball beyond Ramsdale – with all the composure in the world.
When Salah scores, Liverpool win. And boy, he absolutely lit up the stage.
#2 Taking the sting out of Cherries’ potential counters through midfield
Having committed bodies forward, Liverpool losing out on the ball at times was imperative. Just when you thought the crowd at the Vitality had been struck to silence due to the monopolising of possession, Dominic Solanke broke free to initiate a counter.
The young sharpshooter worked his way through after being fed by Jefferson Lerma, but Virgil van Dijk appeared with purpose, as always, to thwart the move. This in turn, becomes another reason behind Liverpool’s victory.
The timing of their challenges through midfield, most notably when Callum Wilson was in acres of space down the right, but there was James Milner to mop up for lost space. This work ethic and desire to lunge in when required is the reason why this team has won 15 out of its 16 matches.
They knocked the stuffing out of Bournemouth, most notably in possession. The likes of Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson worked their magic in their own way. While the former applied his dribbling finesse and link-up abilities into the game, the Reds skipper’s assist to Oxlade-Chamberlain serves as a real testament of his vision and intelligence.
Not to mention, the clever runs they made with and without the ball left the opposition rooted. Henderson was always there to pick up the pieces in midfield alongside Milner, while Keita’s interplay with Salah reminded us of his RB Leipzig days, where every pass was designed and waited to perfection.
Liverpool’s midfield won the game for them, outnumbering their opponents with greater work rate, smarter distribution and sheer quality.
#3 Nathan Ake’s gratuitous injury
It was Liverpool doing all the talking as the game started to take shape, with the four-man Cherries midfield enveloping and stuffing up narrow, central spaces in their defensive third. The Reds were made to work hard and play a lot of passes out wide and back.
There was immediate clouding over a white shirt in the early stages, with not much to celebrate for the league leaders. Apart from a tame effort from Mohamed Salah on the back of some promising build-up down the right, not much troubled young Aaron Ramsdale.
In fact, former Reds forward Dominic Solanke even had a shy on goal in the 20th minute. But, it all changed. In what transpired as an end-to-end attacking move, Nathan Ake timed his sliding challenge to sheer perfection against the pacy Salah.
Just as how apt the tackle proved to be, Ake strained his hamstring in the process. And after a full minute of holding on like a warrior, the sturdy defender had to hit the deck in order to stop play. That, made all the difference in the game.
Since his departure, Bournemouth looked slow to react, lesser attentive and swarmed around the back with little direction.
Ake would shepherd and bark orders, stick to his positions and draw out whenever required. And alas, a ball over the top of Bournemouth’s young center-backs from Henderson was enough to split the hosts’ defence, as Oxlade-Chamberlain latched on to score his first league goal in almost two years.