Jurgen Klopp said later, when the Liverpool title bid was back on track and Anfield becalmed, that there are always difficult times in the season when no-one wants to hear excuses for why points have been dropped, although his faith in his players has never once wavered.
The Liverpool manager left the pitch throwing that celebratory uppercut for the benefit of the home fans who had seen their own side incapacitate the visitors some time before the hour and could have scored six by the end. This was a return to the vintage attacking form of Liverpool before they dropped four points over their previous two games, even if, for Klopp, the essence of his determined, hard-working side had never gone away.
There was a formidable goalscoring performance from the midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum who got off his sickbed to play, and the sheer 90-plus minutes relentlessness of Andy Robertson was compelling once again. Yet when Roberto Firmino rolled his studs over the ball at full speed to play a pass inside for Mohamed Salah to score the third it felt like Anfield had its moment. This was a level of technical quality and team-play with which Bournemouth simply could not live.
Later Klopp would show his indignation about the doubt that has surrounded his team following their draws against Leicester City and West Ham, and detail the battles they had confronted in recent games. Wijnaldum had been sufficiently ill this week that the doctor forbade him from staying at the team hotel on Friday night for fear of spreading his infection, but the midfielder declared himself available nonetheless. Klopp said: “To be honest I was only concerned after he scored a goal that everyone gave him a hug”.
He said he had been similarly dismayed on being told that James Milner, deputising at right-back again, had been criticised following the West Ham game. “These players, the character and mentality of these boys is the only reason we are where we are,” Klopp said. “In moments when you don’t get a result, people doubt that immediately. It’s the world. Predictable. But still not true.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Klopp said, had trained twice, before making a return from injury as a second-half substitute. Jordan Henderson had only been permitted to train at “85 per cent” by the doctor his manager said – “try doing that” – and yet was named on the bench. Even so, Liverpool are back on top of the Premier League and even if Manchester City retake that position on goal difference with victory over Chelsea, there is still the safety of a game in hand.
They are playing football of an uncommon standard at Liverpool and in those closing stages when Eddie Howe’s team opened up and attacked there seemed to be as much danger for the away team when they had an attacking corner as when the home team did. Time and again, Salah, Robertson or Alexander-Arnold carried the ball forward and only a dicey pass or a wayward shot denied Liverpool more goals.
What would have been enough? Hard to say, although there were more goals in this than the three scored by Liverpool, whose goal difference is four shy of City’s. They had some good fortune, too, when Sadio Mane headed in the first after 24 minutes from a position that Howe said was “two yards offside”. The eighth straight away defeat for the Bournemouth manager was, he conceded, more about the individual errors that led to the second and third goals that Liverpool scored.
Wijnaldum’s goal was the first since Boxing Day not scored by one of Klopp’s attacking trident of Mane, Salah and Firmino. Wijnaldum and Fabinho dominated the Bournemouth midfield and out on the right side there was a difficult return for Jordon Ibe. The winger was pursued in possession of the ball and robbed of it in the turnover for Wijnaldum’s goal. From Robertson’s ball over the top to Wijnaldum the Dutchman was allowed the time by his compatriot Nathan Ake to pitch a perfect lob over Artur Boruc.
Howe has major injury problems, six key players including Callum Wilson and David Brooks with Nathaniel Clyne ineligible to play against his parent club. He called the decision by referee Anthony Taylor to allow the first goal to stand “a huge moment in the match”. The second goal from Wijnaldum, he said, was “self-inflicted.” “It’s not our defensive structure in moments like that,” he said. “It’s individual mistakes.”
After six goals in two wins over West Ham and Chelsea, Howe’s side have now lost away at Cardiff and Anfield. It is the away record that looks the worst, although the Bournemouth manager sees it differently. “It is difficult for us,” he said. “I don’t think it is home form and away form, just inconsistencies. We have had inconsistencies, probably since we picked up our long-term injuries. That is what we are looking to put right.”
After Milner’s ball in for Mane’s goal, and then Robertson’s assist for Wijnaldum, the best was yet to come. The boot rolled over the ball by Firmino redirected a 48th-minute attack down the right channel behind Ake and into the path of Salah who finished into the bottom corner past Boruc’s right hand. Salah now has 49 goals in 62 league games for Liverpool and is the first player at the club since Luis Suarez to score 20 goals in two consecutive seasons.
“He was pretty much undefendable,” Klopp said, of his Egyptian striker. “It was an outstanding game. It is exactly the football he is able to play and we want him to play. Mo is obviously a pretty cool finisher.”
Once again it is over to City, although whatever happens in Manchester on Sunday, the standard required for the rest of the season for both these clubs is clear – and it is very high indeed.
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How the table looks now
That's eight away defeats in a row for Bournemouth. Eddie Howe, quite obviously, needs to figure out why that is.
And that's it! Liverpool won this early on and saw the game out very well. Bournemouth never really in it.
90 mins+2 - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Solanke goes for a hit from 30 yards and gets a lot of power on it! The ball bounces wide of the far post with Alisson at full stretch to try and get close to it.
90 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
And now Alexander-Arnold has a chance to make it four! Firmino finds the full-back with an outstanding bit of vision, spotting the run and waiting the exact right amount of time before releasing the pass into his path. A-A is closed down by the goalkeeper at his near post and goes for power, when a sneaky low shot might have found its way past him.
88 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
And now it should definitely be 4-0. Liverpool launch a counter-attack from a corner and Firmino has Van Dijk racing him through on goal for a one vs one with the goalkeeper. Firmino is five yards clear of the chasing defenders, takes a shot early and hits it low, without power, giving Boruc an easy save.
86 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Liverpool are just standing behind the ball in a 4-4-2, Bournemouth looking for a way to score but having their path to goal blocked.
84 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Salah disguises a pass inside as a stepover, plays in Milner, he shoots at the near post and wins a corner. That comes to nothing, Mane has to kick an advertising board to stop himself going flying into the crowd.
81 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
And now Keita's wasted a chance to make it four - it would have been his first Premier League goal too. Salah is the architect of this move, links with Firmino, it creates space on the overlap for Keita and he opens up his foot to go top corner. He leans back too much and blasts over the bar.
79 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Bournemouth move up the pitch quickly, Mousset overlaps Fraser, King is free wide left... if Mousset can cross it low this is a great chance to score... but Mousset shoots near post! Great save by Alisson! He's had to react instantly to deal with that one.
Liverpool try to counter-attack but Mane is tackled.
76 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Mousset gets involved immediately and tries a punt from 30 yards! The ball flies wide of the goal but Alisson dived so he can't have been sure where it was going.
Alexander-Arnold is about to return to first team action. Milner off makes the most sense.
Salah links with Firmino again and hits the bar. It's the same one-two triangle play that keeps opening up this Bournemouth defence, really sharp, so clever and done at high speed.
It's Wijnaldum who comes off for Alexander-Arnold.
73 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Firmino mis-controls for one of the first times ever and an attack fizzles out. Bournemouth take Lerma off and send on Mousset. That's an attacking substitution!
71 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
It's all fairly comfortable for Liverpool at the moment. They're doing well to evade Bournemouth pressure and don't have to commit quite so much to throwing bodies forward now either. The game's done, the job now is seeing it out and not using up too much energy.
68 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Smith goes down in pain as his foot is stood on in the Liverpool box - no penalty - and Gosling gets revenge by colliding with Keita.
65 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Bournemouth's passing just isn't quite good enough in the Liverpool half and they're giving away possession too easily.
63 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Matip is booked for battering into Fraser and it seems a little harsh. Bournemouth have the free-kick about 35 yards from goal on the left on the left wing. Cook runs onto the curled cross... and now Salah is on the counter. He's cut out, King turns Matip but loses out on the recovery tackle.
60 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Ibe goes off to be replaced by Dominic Solanke. Surman is given a piece of paper with some tactical instructions on it. It's either a 4-4-2 or a drawing of the emoji shrugging guy.
57 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Ooooh and it should be four. Salah manages to keep the ball under control despite being tackled by two defenders at once, stabs the ball out to Wijnaldum, who chips to the back post and sets up Mane for a header. He gets the leap right, pulls his neck back to spring the header... then nods it across the box.
54 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Salah has just taken a 70 yard pass out of the air and placed it on Firmino's feet perfectly with his first touch. Why can't I do that?
51 mins - Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0
Bournemouth attack, keep up the pressure, Fraser crosses in... and there's an offside.
And it's three! Mo Salah finishes a smart attacking move and puts Liverpool out of sight.
It comes from a throw-in too! That coaching clearly paid off. .Mane touches it on, Keita sends a pass forward, Firmino backheels and Salah finishes bottom corner.
48 mins - Liverpool 2 Bournemouth 0
Beautiful skill from Ibe. He has to control a pass under pressure and then does a little pirouette to evade two tackles at once and wins a free-kick. Fraser's cross is blocked, Cook is penalised for a shove.
KICK OFF 2
It's time for the second half. Liverpool get this one started.
Does this look offside to you?
One half of his head looks offside. Maybe. It's really tight so probably best to give in the favour of the attacker.
I think this picture kinda sums it all up.
Liverpool in total control. Do Bournemouth push for an equaliser and risk conceding a third? Or do they try and keep the score down and hope counter-attacks give them a lucky couple of chances? Eddie Howe has some decisions to make!
45 mins - Liverpool 2 Bournemouth 0
What. A. Save. That is next level from Boruc. Salah hits a cross to the back post, Robertson cushions it across the six yard line, the ball is headed away and Salah attacks it on the edge of the box. One touch brings it down and the next is a powerful volley to the far post and somehow Boruc is able to fling himself across the goal to palm it over the bar.
44 mins - Liverpool 2 Bournemouth 0
Liverpool are just seeing out the rest of this half now. They have their lead, Bournemouth are sitting deep, no need to rush.
41 mins - Liverpool 2 Bournemouth 0
Liverpool free-kick wide left. Salah crosses in but the referee gives Keita in trouble for a push... or something. It's not clear why.
38 mins - Liverpool 2 Bournemouth 0
Adam Smith has just beaten Robertson with an unbelievable bit of skill. He backheels his way past a challenge near the corner flag, reading the play and putting himself on a run into the box. Then he's tackled, then he kicks Keita. That's both Bournemouth's full-backs booked.
Liverpool 2 Bournemouth 0
Ooooohhhhh that is beautiful from Wijnaldum! He runs into the space wide of the centre-back, takes the high ball down and cushions a volleyed lob over the goalkeeper. That's absolutely superb.
34 mins - Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0
Ibe's given the ball away a couple of times in a row... he's conceding possession in a really dangerous position. And he's done it again! Liverpool are in!
32 mins - Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0
The game's being played almost entirely in Bournemouth's half. Ibe is the outball and doing a lot of work on the right channel to take them up the pitch.
30 mins - Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0
Steve Cook comes to take a long throw, Alisson comes off his line to punch it and nearly gets himself in a bit of trouble. Mane sprints to stop the corner and goes so quickly that he's about to hit the stand as he runs! Mane leaps like spider man and straddles two wheelie bins to avoid smashing into hard plastic.
Liverpool counter meanwhile and Firmino finds Wijnaldum in the centre of the pitch. He can finish into the far corner if he shoots but Salah calls, Wijnaldum sets him up and Salah swings wildly, totally mis-hitting his effort. The pass from Wijnaldum was poor.
27 mins - Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0
Diego Rico is booked for arriving a little late to tackle Milner, catching him as he launches a ball into the channel. There's nothing in it but the Anfield roar maybe earns him the yellow there.
And there's the goal they needed! Mane heads the cross in past Boruc. Great finish.
Ohhhh now then. I think Mane is offside here. It's a great little run and header but when Milner crosses it in, Mane is just a little bit ahead of the defence. Controversy!
24 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Ibe runs into space to take on Robertson, wins some time and plays in teammates who have joined the attack. The move fizzles out and Liverpool move up the pitch but slow down in the opposite half. Bournemouth get back into their shape and blocked the middle of the pitch, forcing passes wide. Corner to Liverpool.
Milner curls it out, Lerma heads it away. Liverpool win it back and can cross in again...
21 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Great play by Bournemouth. They move through the lines quickly, direct forward passes, Fraser runs at the defence and tries a shot. It gets deflected, Ibe follows up and Liverpool are able to win the ball back.
19 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Bournemouth escape their own defensive third, survive a couple of handball shouts on the edge of the box which are never, ever fouls, and then Fraser is caught narrowly offside. If Bournemouth get something out of this they're really going to earn it with hard work, Liverpool look bright and full of energy.
16 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Bournemouth can't beat the first line of Liverpool's press, Bournemouth's coaches shout to their players to remind them to stick with their man.
Ibe does superbly to link play on the right, goes round a couple of challenges and is then tackled well by a chasing Robertson. Great recovery.
14 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
The ball drops kindly for Mane as it bounces between defenders and his through-pass to Firmino gives the Brazilian a chance to shoot at the near post. Boruc blocks well.
Liverpool look dangerous, Bournemouth need to be careful of not holding onto the ball for too long.
12 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Fabinho moves the ball on smartly towards Salah, making up for Keita's loose pass. Salah cuts onto his left (surprise!) but puts his shot into the stands behind the goal.
Ryan Fraser has gone down with an injury while trying to stop Fabinho. They've bashed into each other contesting the 50/50 and Fabinho's arm might have struck the back of his head. Or where Fraser's from, his heid.
9 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Milner joins the attack as a very advanced right-back, Liverpool forcing Bournemouth towards their own box. I have just learned that Liverpool have an official coconut oil partner, which is exactly what football is about really. I know I can't play Sunday League without a delicious handful of coconut oil first.
6 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Liverpool hassling and hustling Bournemouth up the pitch, giving no time to the defence to pick their passes. It results in a punted clearance which gives Liverpool possession.
Salah drifts out to the right, moves inside but is blocked, Bournemouth defending in a 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 formation.
3 mins - Liverpool 0 Bournemouth 0
Good start from Bournemouth! They create the first chance of the game and force Alisson into a diving save at his far post. Bournemouth taking the game to Liverpool from the start. Will that put nerves in Klopp's team or fire them up?
And we're off! Bournemouth start the game.
A reminder of the starting lineups
The manager's thoughts
Only Fulham have lost more away games than Bournemouth...
This is what Eddie Howe thinks:
We've got a few changes all enforced, Charlie misses for family reasons, Dominic is a tactical change. We anticipate a tough game.
We've got to defend today, be strong because we're not going to have much of the ball.
Newsletter - for free!
What to expect today?
Bournemouth are a weird one. They've conceded more counter-attack goals (five) than any team in the league this season and should be vulnerable to Liverpool's quick vertical play... but there's a bit of vulnerability about Klopp's team right now. They need to get back on it today and discover that electric, pulsating style of play that took them so many points clear.
And here are your teams
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 9, 2019
�� TEAM NEWS ��
Here it is! The #afcb team for our @premierleague game against @LFC at Anfield.
�� Lerma, Rico both start
�� Ibe, Fraser out wide
�� Solanke on bench
Matchday live ��: https://t.co/DOYLcT7l9Z#LIVBOUpic.twitter.com/U3AcJrmBQi
— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) February 9, 2019
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he is fine with their current situation and does not need any help coping after Manchester City overtook them at the top of the Premier League.
Even the German, who stresses he does not follow media reports about his club, could not escape the growing background noise over what dropping to second place after two months at the summit meant for the Reds.
In reality it means little as they could regain top spot with a win over Bournemouth, 24 hours before City host Chelsea, but Klopp still received a number of messages about the perceived power shift this week.
"The funny thing about that is I didn't read it, I didn't watch it and I still know it," he said.
"You feel it, with the questions you get asked, the messages I get even from friends. Something obviously changed in their view.
"I got a message this week, another sign that people think I need help - I don't need help, thank you very much, I'm fine - that in the last 10 games City dropped 12 points and we dropped seven. I didn't know that.
"Is it interesting for me? Not really, but the view from outside is completely different.
"Then it was (a message saying) something that City lost three outside the top six teams, we drew twice. That's the world outside, and we live in that world."
Klopp has had to field weekly questions about the title race and how they handle the pressure but now it is about how they react.
He has always delivered the same message of indifference to what was being said outside the club and going behind City on goal difference has not affected that.
"It's normal. It was kind of predictable," he added.
"Obviously it is getting exciting now, eh? It was always clear that would happen.
"I don't think anybody thought we would be top of the league, 12 points clear with three games to go at the end of April.
"If you want to be top of the table and a champion at the end of the season you have to show real passion, real desire, you have to fight.
"The only tool we really have to sort our situation is football, passion, a proper fight, being aggressive in the most legal way. Be hard, put your foot in."