By Umarah Naz
Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday afternoon did so much more than banish the demons of the same fixture last season.
All Liverpool needed was a win, any kind of win, to put the misery of the last two disappointing home draws behind them. But so much more than a win was delivered.
A convincing triumph including four goals without Mane, a clean sheet, a rare Dejan Lovren goal, a return to the pitch for Adam Lallana and an unlikely hero in the man of the match.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed a start in midfield as Jurgen Klopp carried on his rotational theme, and with a trip to Arsenal only five days away, the Ox certainly gave his boss something to think about when he picks the team on Friday night. The ex-Gunner played with an intensity that had been missing for any player for a few games now. He was in the thick of it in the middle of the park winning challenges, making intelligent passes and playing a key role in keeping the team ticking and back to their best.
Seemingly not content with having impressed on the pitch, he turned protector off it when his teammate, Philipe Coutinho, was put under some unfair pressure in the post-match interview regarding his future at Liverpool. His commandeering of that interview praising the Brazilian’s professionalism and commitment and branding the reporters question as unfair won him the respect and admiration of Liverpool fans everywhere. It seems he brings a lot more to the club than just the talent of kicking a ball which will endear him to fans for years to come.
Liverpool were in a need of a similarly clever response after the frustration of dropping four points at home in the last week. It was evident early on that nothing else was on their minds. That spark that had been missing all week was back with a bang.
Early goals are always spoken of as the catalyst to Liverpool’s success in games and it took just twenty minutes for the first goal to come. And what a beauty it was. Coutinho dribbled around Bournemouth players in a packed penalty box and calmly shot past Asmir Begovic to open the floodgates for the Reds.
As is often the case with Liverpool, that paved the way for more fairly quickly. Six minutes later, a corner kick was flicked on by Wijnaldum but looked to be looping out of play until Roberto Firmino hooked it back to a diving Lovren who scored his first goal in fourteen months. Only a fool would begrudge the Croatian his moment of joy in addition to a clean sheet against a team who did venture forward and cause problems.
Jermaine Defoe was unlucky not to put Bournemouth back into the game when he hit the post although cynics would say there was a hint of offside. As fine margins would have it, a potential 2-1 became 3-0 when Mohamed Salah, not to be outdone by Coutinho, left Charlie Daniels and Nathan Ake for dead before curling the ball into the net for his twentieth goal of the season. With it, he equalled Daniel Sturridge’s record of twenty goals in twenty-six games with Christmas not even upon us yet. The Egyptian’s tendency for picking up awards and breaking records undoubtedly makes him the steal of the summer transfer window.
It could only be Liverpool fans that could be apprehensive about going in at half-time 3-0 up. Most teams would have the game well and truly won but the Reds have shown their frailties protecting leads. As the second-half began, Bournemouth came out swinging and it was up to Liverpool to withstand the pressure for the first fifteen minute as they’ve had a tendency to crumble when conceding early on. They managed to get through that period unscathed but another goal was needed purely for the sanity of the fans.
Oxlade-Chamberlain almost capped off his wonderful display with a goal when he spectacularly won possession, ran towards goal but his effort hit the post. Firmino, however, did find the target for that all-important fourth goal with a lovely glancing header from Coutinho’s cross, allowing fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
All that was left was to keep a clean sheet which they managed to achieve as Bournemouth failed to reproduce their performance against Manchester United in midweek. Liverpool rediscovered their mojo and Klopp was left smiling and laughing with the officials at full-time; a stark contrast to his anger seven days ago.
Klopp will be hoping that this result will rekindle the momentum Liverpool had gathered before the last two draws and boost confidence ahead of the upcoming crucial game against Arsenal. Three points over a direct rival are vital if Liverpool hope to consolidate their top four finish of last season.
Oxlade-Chamberlain will be relishing that fixture and be itching to get stuck into his former teammates to prove a point if nothing else. The fans unequivocally won’t want him to become a victim of Klopp’s rotation. Not for this game at least.