Following a couple of immensely frustrating draws, this was the perfect tonic which suggested that despite dropping points against Everton and West Brom at Anfield, Liverpool’s momentum has not been halted by these recent setbacks. This was just about as emphatic a victory and all-round performance as you’ll see away from home in this league, as Liverpool became the first side to win four consecutive away games by a three-goal margin in Premier League history.
From the very first whistle, the difference in intensity compared to the recent home draws was stark, with Liverpool looking like a side with a point to prove, eager to return to winning ways. There was a steely determination to get the job done and even when Philippe Coutinho’s early free-kick inexplicably stayed out having hit the inside of the post, the opening goal felt more like a matter of time, rather than a question of whether it would come.
Indeed, it arrived courtesy of Coutinho in sensational fashion, picking up Andy Robertson’s pass mid-way inside Bournemouth’s half before dribbling past a helpless chasing pack, weaving his way into the box before slotting the ball coolly past Asmir Begovic. Robertson’s overlapping run was pivotal in opening up the space for Coutinho to drive into, but this was all about the Brazilian’s individual genius- the kind of goal only a tiny handful of players in the league are capable of scoring. He has a sumptuous collection of long-range strikes to his name, but this was right up there with his very finest in a Liverpool shirt.
Having made the breakthrough, Liverpool kept their foot on the pedal as Bournemouth found themselves suffocated by the intensity of the press and unable to work their way up the pitch. The lead was doubled just six minutes later, with Roberto Firmino displaying a touch of class to hook the ball back into the six-yard box from a corner, as Dejan Lovren showed bravery to stick his head in a melée of boots to nod the ball into the net for his first goal of the season.
At 2-0, Liverpool found themselves in a position of authority but not a scoreline which put the game beyond all doubt, as Jermain Defoe provided a reminder that Liverpool cannot afford to switch off in situations such as these. The striker found himself one-on-one with Simon Mignolet after Gini Wijnaldum carelessly surrendered possession in midfield, only to hit the post with his effort which ricocheted away to safety- a major let-off at a crucial point in the game.
Scoring just before half-time is always crucial for momentum in games, especially when it comes after the opposition had squandered a golden chance of their own. Liverpool managed to do exactly that, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fed Mohamed Salah down the right, the Egyptian bursting past Charlie Daniels before cutting back on to his lethal left foot to curl the ball home through a body of players. It took Salah’s tally to 20 goals for the season, making him the joint second fastest Liverpool player to reach that landmark, alongside Daniel Sturridge- in just 26 games.
Although Salah’s left-foot is a well-known weapon by now, defenders are simply unable to cope with his sheer speed and technique even when they know exactly what’s coming next. It’s the kind of signature move Arjen Robben has built a career on, as Salah confirms his status as the most prolific wideman in Europe.
There was to be no repeat of last season’s capitulation against Eddie Howe’s side, even despite the half-time introduction of Ryan Fraser who had turned the contest on its head around this time last year. Liverpool controlled the second-half well, as Jordan Henderson put in arguably his best performance of the season in midfield after much recent criticism, aided by playing alongside a partner in Wijnaldum.
To put the three points beyond all doubt, Firmino nodded in Coutinho’s cross for the fourth, capping of just the latest outstanding display from Liverpool’s no.9 who has now surpassed his best ever goal tally for the club in mid-December.
In truth, it ought to have been more as Oxlade-Chamberlain was unfortunate to see his shot cannon back off the post after a superb tackle and driving run forward which would have put an extra gloss on his man of the match performance. His pace, energy, technique and work-rate were evident throughout- the clearest evidence yet as to how he fits Klopp’s system so well.
It leaves the manager with a welcome dilemma for his team selection against Arsenal and with Oxlade-Chamberlain having made such a positive impression, Sadio Mané may well have to sit tight and bide his time to earn his place back as the games come quick and fast. To have such a wealth of attacking options, with Adam Lallana having made his return too, is a very healthy situation to be in at this busy stage in the season.
He continued his excellent display in the post-match interview, stepping in for Coutinho having been pressed about his future, as Oxlade-Chamberlain emphasised his team mate’s quality and professionalism, labelling the reporter’s question as unfair. It was his finest day as a Liverpool player so far, with many more yet to come.
Jürgen Klopp could take great satisfaction not only in the emphatic attacking display, but also in his side’s 5th clean sheet in the past 9 league games as the back four remained organised and focused throughout, with Joe Gomez and Robertson among the team’s standout performers at fullback.
Given the context of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United having all won this weekend, while Spurs dropped points in their defeat to Man City, it was an especially crucial three points for Liverpool ahead of Friday’s visit to the Emirates. Klopp’s side now have the opportunity to cement themselves in the top four and start to put some light between themselves, Arsenal and Spurs.