17 December 2017

Liverpool 4-0 Bournemouth

Coutinho 20'
Lovren 26'
Salah 44'
Firmino 66'

Revenge for last season? Sure, why not. It's a start, at least.

This was West Ham, Stoke, and Brighton again. This was Liverpool nearing, if not at the apex, of its attacking best, after the disappointments in the last two matches. This was Liverpool scoring early, then Liverpool scoring often. This was another away game shellacking of a side that had given Liverpool problems in past seasons, as we all very much remember.

Bournemouth did what Bournemouth said they were going to do. Bournemouth didn't drop 10 behind the ball and hope to stop Liverpool. Bournemouth wanted to play an open game.

Bournemouth paid for it.

Liverpool went at Bournemouth from the opening whistle, but Liverpool also had space to go at Bournemouth. This wasn't "let's run at a deep brick wall and hope for the best." There were gaps between central midfield and defense. There were wingers who didn't do enough to support under-fire fullbacks.

There were Liverpool chances, almost right away. There was the woodwork saving Bournemouth from an 11th minute concession, denying Coutinho a third free kick goal this season. There was Salah, torturing Charlie Daniels from the opening whistle, setting a marker when missing a I'm-gonna-cut-in-and-shoot-you-can't-stop me Arjen Robben attempt.

And in the 20th minute, there was Coutinho with the ball at his feet on the halfway line. Lay-off to Robertson, with a quickly released pass back getting Coutinho beyond defenders. There he goes. There's Francis retreating with no idea where to go, especially when Robertson also steams into the picture. There's a drop of the shoulder to both remove and embarrass Lewis Cook. There's the ball in the net. The clichéd "mazy run" doesn't even come close to covering it. It was art.

When Liverpool score a first in the first half-hour, they usually get a second.

The second came six minutes after the first. Corner, Wijnaldum flick, Firmino somehow keeps it in, a chip over his shoulder, Lovren first to react with a torpedo diving header. Another set play goal, as against Brighton, Sevilla, West Ham, Maribor, and Huddersfield during this run. You know, a lot of those matches where Liverpool scored multiple goals.

When Liverpool score two in the first half-hour, they usually get more.

But first, one of those sliding-doors moments which happen almost every match.

Liverpool lose possession in midfield – something which didn't often happen today. Cook to Stanislas, through ball to Defoe in space behind Lovren, holding his line with Gomez still retreating. Defoe, with one of his trademark chances: on the counter, in behind, one-on-one with the keeper.

He hits the post.

The woodwork giveth, the woodwork taketh away.

Is it a different game if Defoe finishes his clear-cut chance in the 39th minute, with Liverpool *only* up 2-0? Of course it is. Even if the result stays the same, we get to see if Liverpool tilt, we get acid flashbacks of last season at Bournemouth. We get to see Liverpool tested.

But, of course, it's a different game against Everton if Liverpool convert one of three missed clear-cut chances or the referee doesn't give a nonsense penalty. It's a different game against West Brom if Liverpool convert one of three missed clear-cut chances or the referee doesn't rule out Solanke's goal for an accidental close-range handball.

The finishing pixie is a cruel mistress. And football is a cruel game. We knew that. We've learned that before.

And other than that Defoe miss, Liverpool weren't really tested.

Salah added the game-killing third just before halftime, mere seconds after Begovic saved his clear-cut chance from just outrageous Liverpool passing, this time absolutely destroying both Daniels and Ake before finally Robbening one in.

Second half, cruise control. Bournemouth rarely threatened after Defoe's miss: a couple of swiftly blocked shots, Fraser's no-angle effort into the side-netting, and Mignolet's nice save on Defoe's effort on the hour mark. Not that it mattered by that point, but Bournemouth didn't have a single shot in the last 30 minutes.

We got a fourth from Firmino in the 66th, a goal his performance merited: probably offside, but a second diving header, this one converting Coutinho's cross.

We got all-English subs, with Lallana, Solanke, and Ings replacing Salah, Firmino, and Coutinho, with both Ings and Solanke unlucky not to get Liverpool's fifth.

We got another comprehensive away win, which doesn't quite make up for the pain this opponent caused last season, but it's a start. We got a comprehensive away win after the two draws earlier this week.

So, what did we learn? Actually, not a lot.

When Liverpool are good, Liverpool are really good. When Liverpool score early and often, Liverpool are really good.

We knew that.

Coutinho and Salah are wonderful footballers, each with an indescribably good solo goal. Firmino's work rate fuels the front three, his flick to keep the ball in for Lovren's goal, his headed goal, his constant running and pressing and leading the line.

We knew that.

Liverpool often thrive against open opposition, even more this season than last. We knew that. So, thanks to Bournemouth for not only playing open, but playing passively, and playing with a two-man midfield that both wasn't deep enough and didn't challenge Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Wijnaldum, with the first two actually excellent today. Oxlade-Chamberlain's getting better each match, and Jordan Henderson thrives in games like these, when he's not challenged in midfield, when he's got space to look up for forward passes, when he has a chance to press opponents.

And, to be fair, Bournemouth's task was made even harder today with two players taken off through injury by the 56th minute: Josh King in the first half, Charlie Daniels early in the second. King especially could have made a difference, the pace and hold-up play on the counter that neither Defoe nor Stanislas have. I'm struggling to feel bad for them, though.

I'm just gonna leave these here.

Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last 12 matches, even if we're still mad about the two which came before this. Liverpool have scored three or more in nine of those 12 matches. Liverpool kept a clean sheet in seven of those 12 matches.

Liverpool are a good side, especially in these conditions, and really especially when Liverpool's key players play this well. When those key players take the chances they're presented with.

But, again, this isn't last season's Liverpool. These aren't the matches we've had to worry about lately. But we'll worry about those later.

1 comment :

drew said...