Despite a scary start that saw Alisson bat away an early effort, Liverpool regained their form, battering Bournemouth 3-0 at Anfield.
Bournemouth put together a quick strike as Ryan Frasier tested Alisson in the early minutes but that would be about the best chance they would have all afternoon. The visitors’ quick start seemed to spark the home side into life. From that moment, Liverpool responded with their best performance in recent weeks.
It was only a matter of time before the Reds broke through. Sadio Mané and Gini Wijnaldum’s first-half goals had the match all but dusted. Mo Salah added one shortly after the break to ensure the win. However, it was the way that Liverpool flooded forward that dismissed any growing causes for concern. This was a match where the Reds ran rampant on multiple occasions.
Even better than battering their opponents, the defence also improved, looking considerably more certain and solid. The combination of Naby Keita and Fabinho, with the return of Wijnaldum, looked considerably stronger both protecting the backline and starting the attack. Even Joel Matip projected a much secure figure than he has in the last few matches.
It was a welcome victory and clean sheet that sent Liverpool back to the top of the table by three points. Yet, it was the manner in which the side won that should see their courage and confidence surge just in time for another European night on Merseyside.
Here are four findings from the match.
After two lacklustre matches, Liverpool reminded Bournemouth, and the rest of the league, that any suggestion of ‘bottling’ may be altogether premature. On Merseyside, the Reds regained their form with a forcefulness that was as notable as their brief wobble.
All the concerns of the side not looking quite in-sync can fall away just in time to kick on in the second round of the Champions League. Not only did Liverpool dominate the ball but they rediscovered their fluidity and overwhelmed the Cherries, creating plenty of chances and taking three of them.
Against West Ham, Liverpool’s midfield looked disjointed and uncertain. Having never played together and looking like it, combined with 4-2-3-1 shape, it left the Reds looking ropey. Naby Keita, in particular looked caught between roles. Yet there were flashes of what might be expected from pairing Keita and Fabinho.
Shifting back to the 4-3-3, with the addition of Wijnaldum, not only gave the midfield more balance but better clarity. It led to Keita’s best performance since joining the club. His confidence noticeably grew as he made more tackles than anyone on the pitch (7). Yet, his surges forward with the ball were more incisive and dangerous, starting the attack, and he nearly got his first goal.
Without question, Gini Wijnaldum is having his best season since arriving on Merseyside. Over the past few seasons, his absence has proven just how valuable he has become. Despite missing the last two matches, the Dutchman continues to be one of the players in the side logging the most minutes, certainly the most of any midfielder. His presence was telling.
His second goal of the season was a sumptuous flick over Artur Boric. His first touch is almost always exquisite and his goal showcased the depth of his technical ability. Beyond scoring, Wijnaldum was everywhere, providing a calming presence and directing traffic in the middle of the pitch. His presence made a major difference and suggests a solid midfield setup that will be seen more regularly.
All three forwards, playing as a frontline, were back to their best. Sadio Mané scored in his fourth consecutive league match and nearly had a brace. The Senegalese has shouldered most of the attacking threat during the down period and pulled the side along. Against Bournemouth, Mané sparked the side’s resurgence.
Mo Salah nonchalantly curled in a low shot, adding to his league lead with 17 goals. Salah too nearly had more flashing one off the crossbar late. Not surprisingly, it was Roberto Firmino who found the Egyptian for the goal and the near miss. The Brazilian suffered a terrible outing in London midweek but rediscovered his joy with his signature flicks and tricks. Even his assist was an audacious backheel in the box.
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