Sterling 20' 51'
Liverpool retained the same formation, and nearly the same personnel, that lost on Sunday. Liverpool built on that attacking display and actually finished their chances. And after scoring the second, Liverpool rarely looked as if they'd relinquish their lead, against tricky opposition on their own ground.
But it wasn't as easy as that makes it sounds. Bournemouth missed two first-half sitters, scored a regrettable consolation, and hit the woodwork. Liverpool only conceded once, but with better finishing from the home side, Liverpool could easily have conceded four.
Welcome back, wacky football. Fun times up front and a dumpster fire at the back. It's still a vast improvement on what we've been subjected to for the majority of the season.
The only two changes from Sunday's XI were Markovic for Moreno and Allen for Lucas: a wing-back who's even less of a defender and a slower midfielder. The same 3-4-2-1 formation, no rest for Gerrard and Sterling, no starts for the seemingly out-of-favor Sakho or Can. That was worrisome.
As was Bournemouth carving through Liverpool's defense before four minutes were off the clock: Gosling's cross chested down by Kermorgant to Wilson, Wilson somehow dancing around Skrtel, Gerrard, then Lovren before toe-poking wide from six yards out. It'd probably have been a very different match had that gone in.
But Liverpool settled. Liverpool actually started to look like a Brendan Rodgers side again: monopolizing possession, comfortably building from the back, poking, prodding, and passing until an opening appeared. That Bournemouth failed to press the center-backs or central midfielders certainly helped, but baby steps. We've seen Liverpool struggle to pass to open players without other opposition sides pressing this season.
And that comfortable possession led to the opening goal. A 51-pass move, the longest I can remember from Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers, a move which took two minutes and 26 seconds before Markovic crossed for Henderson's run to the back post, headed back to Sterling, who deftly flicked a header inside the far post. It was Sterling's first headed goal for Liverpool.
Seven minutes later, the crucial second. More patient build-up before Lallana, Markovic, and Coutinho worked the ball to the byline down the left flank. Coutinho's narrow angle shot was saved, but Markovic's rebound from the top of the box was perfect, placed through four defenders into the far corner from 18 yards out.
Bournemouth's second missed sitter came seconds later: a counter-attack down Liverpool's left, a byline cutback to Kermorgant ballooned well over the bar. It was similar to Rooney's opener on Sunday in all but the finish. But for the most part, Liverpool continued to control proceedings – albeit without threatening too often – for the duration of the half.
The second half was a different story. Sakho replaced Lovren due to the latter's injury, and Liverpool extended its lead soon after, but this time from a blazing counter: Lallana's throughball, Sterling twisting defenders' blood before slotting past Boruc. But rather than monopolizing possession, Liverpool shelled and played for the counter. Which, to be fair, was a tactic we frequently saw last season after going three or more goals ahead.
Of course, it was a tactic that also saw Liverpool concede a lot of goals last season. So it wasn't incredibly surprising when Liverpool conceded in the 57th: a long ball down Liverpool's left with Markovic caught upfield and Sakho unable to get out quick enough to block the cross, Gosling receiving the ball at the top of the box just in front of the retreating Lucas and running around Skrtel and Toure before slotting home. A shot that somehow went through Brad Jones, and will hopefully be the end of the Brad Jones Experience. It's probably not coincidence the goal was similar to the Bournemouth's second missed sitter. Or, again, Rooney's opener on Sunday.
From there, Bournemouth conspired to miss two more excellent chances: Fraser's back post header trickling just wide and too far ahead of Wilson, then Gosling hitting the post from outside the box. Liverpool also failed to take an excellent chance on the counter: wonderful interplay from Coutinho, Lallana, and Sterling, but the latter screwing his shot wide when open on the left side of the box.
And, to be fair, Bournemouth had few chances after hitting the post in the 69th minute, but still. The overriding narrative remained "fun up front, dumpster fire at the back."
Sakho, Can, and Borini came on as substitutes – proving that all three still exist – but Sterling played the full 90 and Gerrard exited just before injury time. Lallana, Markovic, and Sterling were quite good, Liverpool looked miles better in attack, and Liverpool actually finished its chances. But this was against Championship opposition (albeit very good Championship opposition who were unbeaten in 12 matches), and in the League Cup, not the league. And there's still that whole "defense" issue.
So be it. We got to enjoy ourselves for a few hours, Liverpool actually looked a force going forward at times, the 3-4-2-1 looks like it might be a reasonable solution for the time being, and we were treated to a victory. And not a death-warmed-over 1-0 or 2-1 stuttering victory, but an open 3-1 victory with chances at both ends.
That's progress. And given what we've seen since *checks watch* the beginning of September, I'll certainly take it.