BY TOM PRENTKI
AT least there is one happy Gary today. After the euphoria of Sunday, Liverpool were brought back down to earth with a devastating jolt in a damaging afternoon for their top four hopes on the south coast after Gary O’Neil’s side recorded a crucial victory.
They lost and failed to score against bottom of the table Bournemouth, whom they’d beaten 9-0 at Anfield, and have now taken just 12 points from 13 away games this season.
Having fallen behind to Philip Billing’s first half goal, his sixth of the season, Mohamed Salah’s penalty missed its mark and Bournemouth hung on admirably thereafter.
O’Neil had joked before kick-off that he hoped Liverpool had “used up all their goals” against Manchester United. He was right and it was a victory which saw his side climb out of the relegation zone ahead of the 3pm kick-offs and one which goes a long way to atoning for the 97th minute at Arsenal last week.
Liverpool had started well enough with Bournemouth forced to camp in their own half and weather the early storm.
Trent Alexander-Arnold created the first chance, sending a corner to the far post from where Virgil van Dijk headed powerfully to the top corner, only for Jefferson Lerma to head off the line.
Soon, Liverpool had a goal ruled out for offside after a brilliant exchange between Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez ended with Cody Gakpo volleying into the roof of the net.
Andy Robertson was next to threated, latching on to van Dijk’s chipped pass and shooting across goal, forcing a good one-handed save from Neto.
A Liverpool goal seemed inevitable but Bournemouth posed a threat on the break through the pace of Dango Ouattara.
After Alexander-Arnold had wastefully given possession to Dominic Solanke, he quickly found Outtara who raced clear but, after stepping round Alisson, a heavy touch made the angle too tight to score.
As Bournemouth were finding a foothold, they also found the opening goal. Adam Smith again found Ouattara down the right and he accelerated away from van Dijk and Robertson before crossing for Billing who scored from close range.
Burkina Faso winger Ouattara was a thorn in the side of Robertson, who was celebrating his 29th birthday. A brilliant cross found Solanke six yards out and, had his first touch been better, Bournemouth would have doubled their advantage.
Liverpool were becoming ponderous in possession and Klopp changed things at half time, bringing on Diogo Jota for Elliott, with Gakpo reverting to a more withdrawn role.
Jota soon threatened, driving from midfield before brining a diving save from Neto as he curled a shot towards the far corner.
Klopp’s side had more than two thirds of possession and an aggregate score of 28-1 from their last seven games with Bournemouth.
But O’Neil’s game plan was working with Bournemouth keeping all 11 players behind the ball at times, leaving little space for Liverpool to expose.
Further changes came with Firmino, James Milner and Jordan Henderson with 25 minutes remaining. It had an instant impact as Milner got in down the right and crossed to Jota whose header struck the arm of Smith and rolled onto the roof of the net.
Liverpool’s players were incandescent and, after checking on the pitch-side monitor, Brooks gave the penalty, Liverpool’s first of the season.
Salah took it and missed to the left of goal as Klopp shrugged his shoulders in disbelief.
From there Bournemouth were obdurate to the last and when Gakpo’s volley flashed over the bar in the fourth minute of stoppage time they were home and dry.
Source: Telegraph Media