Liverpool banished fears over the absence of Mo Salah as they brushed aside Bournemouth 4-0 to move five points clear at the top of the Premier League. In their first top-flight game since their key man headed to AFCON, Jurgen Klopp’s side kept their composure after a scoreless first half. Darwin Nunez swept home a low finish four minutes after the break, before Diogo Jota sealed matters with two clinical goals. And it was the Uruguayan striker who completed the rout in injury time. Express Sport rounds up some talking points from the match…
Nunez dismisses Carroll comparisons
At the Vitality Stadium, Darwin Nunez did what Darwin Nunez does – except this time there were two clinical finishes to boot.
His first goal in particular, a low shot past Neto into the bottom corner didn’t reflect a striker perceived to be lacking confidence in front of goal. And it was exactly the sort of finish the Uruguayan, and Jurgen Klopp, would have been craving to dismiss the noise over how Liverpool will cope for as long as Mo Salah is away at AFCON.
In the first 45 minutes Nunez produced his customary mixed bag, combative throughout while also swinging at thin air as he tried to execute a volley on goal. But the subsequent chants of ‘you’re just a s**t Andy Carroll’ were later silenced, and doubts over his status as a potential match-winner will, temporarily at least, subside.
Solanke script fails to materialise
When Liverpool opted to sell Dominic Solanke to Bournemouth in January 2019 for a £19million fee, the fact they insisted on a sell-on clause implied they rated the striker highly.
With 12 goals already, the 26-year-old is currently enjoying his best Premier League campaign to date, and the opportunity to show his former club what they’ve been missing was an intriguing side-plot. This wasn’t however, one of his better days, struggling to work space in the Liverpool area and failing to get on the end of a cross from close range chance before the break.
The one-cap England wonder remains pivotal to his side. But if today was a chance to showcase himself as a contender for Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 squad, he didn’t take it.
More VAR inconsistency
Was it a red card when Justin Kluivert clattered into Luis Diaz after 35 minutes? Perhaps not, but VAR has recommended them for far less this season.
Once again, we were presented with an incident that highlighted the inconsistencies of the system, after the Dutchman clumsily sent the away winger to the deck with his studs showing. Jurgen Klopp ranted at the fourth official, hardly a rare occurrence of course, but the frustration was understandable given the challenge that saw Curtis Jones red-carded at Tottenham earlier in the season.
No panic from Iraola
With the pre-match talk inevitably dominated by Liverpool’s Premier League title charge, Bournemouth’s pre-January form was criminally overlooked.
Having looked prime candidates for relegation after being thumped 6-1 by Man City on November 4, Andoni Iraola had overseen a spell of 19 Premier League points from a possible 24 before the break for FA Cup action. And the Cherries progressed in that competition too.
In the first half, the hosts were solid and organised as they absorbed pressure and with Marcus Tavernier influential, had their moments in attack too. After conceding they pressed without ever carving their visitors open but despite the defeat, make no mistake, Bournemouth are now an accomplished Premier League side – with an accomplished Premier League manager.
Liverpool’s second-half specials
While the lazy perception that a Kevin de Bruyne-inspired Man City will now cruise to the title at a canter, it’s Liverpool who continue to find a way to set the pace.
And their ability to surge in the second half could yet prove pivotal in landing another top-flight crown. Intriguingly, were the table now based on half-time scores only, Liverpool would lie seventh and five points off the pace.
Instead, they are top and five points clear. Desire, will and a knack of winning – all sound like generic run-of-the-mill terms. But they are notions that matter, and the league leaders have them all in abundance.