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    Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool Match Report

    First half goals from Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge proved to be enough for a makeshift Liverpool side on their way to victory on their first ever league visit to Bournemouth, keeping alive their faint top-four chances. The Reds needed to overcome the home side's late fightback but Joshua King's goal proved too little too late for Eddie Howe's team in their attempt to secure an unlikely draw.

    Although Jurgen Klopp made 10 changes to his starting line-up, it was the only survivor from Thursday night's momentous 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund, Roberto Firmino, who set Liverpool on their way to victory just four minutes before the interval. Daniel Sturridge, making his fourth consecutive start in the league, doubled the lead in first half stoppage time and put down a marker for selection in Wednesday's Merseyside derby. Liverpool needed to survive three contentious penalty claims, each for handball, in order to preserve their two-goal lead and it was only when Joshua King scored in the third minute of injury time that The Reds' defence was finally breached.

    Despite clearly having half an eye on the game in midweek against Everton, it was a match that Liverpool needed to win in order to move level with seventh-place Southampton in the hunt for the Europa League places. Danny Ward made his debut in goal, while Connor Randall started for the first time in the league and Brad Smith made his first league start after two previous substitute appearances. Kolo Toure, Joe Allen and youngsters Kevin Stewart and Sheyi Ojo kept their Premier League places following last Sunday's win over Stoke and they were joined in the starting XI by Jordon Ibe and Lucas Leiva, making their first league starts since January and February respectively.

    Liverpool started the match the brighter side and were unfortunate not to take the lead after just two minutes through Daniel Sturridge, who was searching for his ninth goal in only his 14th start of the season. As home side dwelt in possession on the edge of the penalty area, Andrew Surman's attempted back pass to Danny Ward was cut out by Firmino, allowing Sturridge an early opening. The England striker nipped in between Tommy Elphick and Steve Cook on the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a first-time strike, which was comfortably saved low down by Artur Boruc.

    It was a case of "backs against the wall" for much of the first half for Eddie Howe's side, with Sheyi Ojo causing The Cherries problems with his mazy dribbles down the right flank. The 18-year-old weaved his way past Charlie Daniels and Max Gradel before trying his luck with a effort on goal, which was heading for the far-post before being blocked by Steve Cook. Ojo then set up Randall from the rebound but the winger's first effort was also blocked by Cook before he was subsequently thwarted by Boruc, saving comfortably low down to his left.

    Just as it looked as if the match would remain goalless after the first 45 minutes, Daniel Sturridge provided a piece of magic that opened up the game and resulted in Roberto Firmino's 10th goal of the season. With his back to goal and four Bournemouth defenders behind him, the 26-year-old's audacious back heel was saved low down to his left by Boruc but the Cherries' goalkeeper could only palm the ball straight into the path of Firmino. The Brazilian made no mistake from four yards as he slotted into a gaping net to give Jurgen Klopp's experimental team the lead that they deserved on the overall balance of play.

    Sturridge doubled his side's lead two minutes into stoppage time with a header from Jordon Ibe's free-kick to effectively put the game beyond the home side's reach before half-time. After being excellently found from Ibe's pinpoint cross, the Liverpool striker managed to find space inside the penalty area before rising high to place his header into the bottom corner. The goal owed as much to Bournemouth's poor defending as it did to Sturridge's finishing as none of the nine outfield Cherries players inside the penalty area picked up the 26-year-old's run and he was allowed to head home unchallenged from 12 yards.

    The home side improved after the break but it was Liverpool who carved out two of the best opportunities to extend their lead as Sturridge was twice thwarted by the woodwork. He latched onto Joe Allen's defence-splitting pass eight minutes into the second half, opting to nonchalantly chip the ball over head of the onrushing Boruc, but his effort struck the post from 16 yards. Sturridge was later fed by Adam Lallana on the edge of the penalty area, turning past three defenders with his back to goal, before unleashing an effort that cannoned off the post from a tight angle.

    Bournemouth had their own opportunities throughout the second half to reduce their arrears, but Joshua King was twice denied by the impressive Danny Ward on his Liverpool debut. The former Blackburn forward's pace was causing problems for Lucas Leiva and, having beaten the Brazilian on the outside and inside, he struck a low effort that was saved by Ward from seven yards. King also produced another mazy run midway through the half, in which he outmuscled Sakho and came inside Lucas, before his chip from just outside the six-yard box was well-anticipated the onrushing Ward.

    The hosts also had three unsuccessful penalty appeals throughout the match which were all in the "we've seen them given" category, although none of them were as clear-cut as the Bournemouth fans appeared to be suggesting. The first claim occurred in first half stoppage time, shortly before Liverpool's second goal, where Lucas appeared to swing his arm towards the ball after it struck him from close range. Kolo Toure survived a similar penalty appeal on the hour-mark where he blocked a Lewis Grabban cross from a short distance, while Brad Smith escaped a claim three minutes from time when the ball caught his arm as he crouched down to control it with his chest.

    Bournemouth's luck did improve three minutes into stoppage time when Joshua King capped a fine performance with an impressive strike from 18 yards. Andrew Surman's long ball forward was expertly controlled by King on the edge of the box before he rifled the ball past Ward into the bottom left-hand corner with only a minute remaining of stoppage time. Even King's consolation didn't prove to be the final action of the game as Steve Cook narrowly headed over from Charlie Daniel's left-wing cross in a frantic finale.

    The win capped an exceptional eight days for Jurgen Klopp's team, which started with the 4-1 demolition of Stoke and reached its peak with the momentous 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League. Although this match didn't reach those heights in terms of tension, emotion, drama or intensity, it was still a very important win for the club as they attempt to maintain their current momentum and their winning mentality. The three points take The Reds into eighth position, level with seventh-place Southampton on 51 points, ahead of Wednesday's Merseyside derby.

    Similarly to the game against Stoke seven days earlier, the likes of Ojo and Stewart barely put a foot wrong, while Kolo Toure and Joe Allen seemed to be enjoying a new lease of life under Klopp after being used sparingly under Brendan Rodgers. Danny Ward has, in all likelihood, moved ahead of Adam Bogdan as the club's second-choice goalkeeper after putting in an assured performance, and both Connor Randall and Adam Smith enhanced their profiles with strong performances in the full-back positions. The excellent form of goalscorer Sturridge will also offer Klopp the unenviable dilemma of who to pick as his first-choice striker, especially for the club's Europa League campaign.

    While Bournemouth will count themselves unfortunate not to have been awarded at least one penalty throughout the game, they never reached the same heights for most of the match as they did in the latter stages so a point would have flattered them on the overall balance of play. The Cherries have achieved their season's objectives by remaining in the Premier League so anything that Eddie Howe's team achieve between now and the end of the season will be seen by many as a bonus. The club return to action when they entertain Chelsea on Saturday afternoon, the same time as Liverpool play relegation-threatened Newcastle United.
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    Item Reviewed: Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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