Liverpool produced a spineless second-half collapse from a comfortable position to suffer their first ever defeat to Bournemouth with a 4-3 loss.
Bournemouth 4–3 Liverpool
Premier League, Dean Court
Sunday 4th December 2016
Goals: Wilson 56’ Fraser 76’ Cook 78’ Ake 93’ ; Mane 20’ Origi 22’ Can 64’
Liverpool’s Premier League title aspirations took a dent as a nightmare second period saw the Reds surrender a commanding lead and slump to defeat.
Two quick-fire, clinical finishes in as many minutes from Sadio Mane and Divock Origi put the Reds in complete control in the first-half, but Callum Wilson halved the deficit from the spot after 56 minutes following James Milner‘s foul on substitute Ryan Fraser, only for Emre Can to restore the two-goal cushion with an rocket that looked to have sealed the game.
But a spirited fight-back from the home side, combined with a dreadful defensive collapse, and goals from Fraser, Steve Cook and an injury-time winner from Nathan Ake condemned Liverpool to an embarrassing defeat after being 3-1 up with 15 minutes to go.
Here are the talking points from a woeful day on the south coast.
Game Management Missing in Embarrassing Collapse
Earning impressive dominance in the contest following an excellent first-half display, the second period was all about retaining control, showing a strong mentality and managing the game as needed.
All the Reds needed to do was continue at the same intensity and with the same composure, but Liverpool went to pieces in shambolic fashion, familiarly collapsing under pressure to inexplicably surrender a two-goal.
A nightmare header from Dejan Lovren set the tone for nerves to creep in, with Milner having to lunge and giving a penalty away for fouling Fraser. From then on, despite Can restoring a two-goal lead, Liverpool were visibly rattled and lost all organisation.
Composure went out the window as the Reds made Fraser look Lionel Messi in his attempts at leading the fight-back for the home side, and Klopp’s men failed to shut down or deal with a routine cross in the box, despite having plenty of bodies back, from which Steve Cook fired home.
The Reds have made a habit of shooting themselves in the foot in recent years and this trait proved costly once again as ground was surrendered.
Mane Returning To Form but Injury Presents Concern
One positive, before the shambolic collapse, was a better display from Mane, but that he was withdrawn early through injury presents a huge concern for Klopp.
The Senegalese international has been in quieter form in recent weeks, but he looked a lot closer to rediscovering the level of performance that saw him make a blistering start to life at Anfield – claiming a goal and assist.
The timing of his run and the clinical nature of his finish to open the scoring was more the Mane we saw early on in the season, and his work for Can’s strike – driving at the Cherries’ defence, taking players on and laying the ball perfectly into the German’s path despite being off balance, was excellent.
Replaced by Adam Lallana with the Reds’ 3-1 ahead, the lack of attacking threat posed by Klopp’s men thereafter was obvious after his exit, showing the importance he carries for this team.
Joel Matip Sorely Missed
Concern arose before kick-off as news of the absence of the imperious Joel Matip due to an ankle injury spread.
Worry over how the Reds would cope surfaced, and understandably so given Klopp’s side have not lost with the Cameroonian in the team this season.
And in an embarrassing collapse, those fears were brutally realised, leaving almost everyone pointing to the scale of the absence of the towering centre-back as Lovren and Lucas – oddly preferred to specialist back-up Ragnar Klavan – failed to deputise.
The air of composure Matip brings to defending situations was sorely missed, as was his aerial dominance as Bournemouth delivered balls into the box searching for a comeback – as seen for their third goal.
Lovren clearly struggled without the stability of his usual partner by his side, and the Reds back four went to pieces without Matip’s ability to organise and marshall the defence.
Origi Taking His Opportunity
Another positive aspect from a dreadful afternoon, despite his alarming second period tail-off, was another goal for Origi who continues to take the chance handed to him.
Since injury to Coutinho presented the Belgian with the chance he’s waited for, he’s not looked back, instantly hitting the ground running in hugely impressive fashion.
A fantastic finish from a near-impossible angle after rounding Artur Boruc gave the Reds a magnificent second goal, with this strike being Origi’s third goal in as many games and his seventh in his last eight starts.
The striker has recently earned plaudits from Klopp for showing patience to wait for his chance as well as his application on Melwood’s training pitches, and this work is paying off.
Klopp’s Impact From The Bench Limited
As the game developed and Liverpool lost their way, inspiration from the bench was needed to stem the flow of the growing threat posed by Bournemouth in search of a comeback.
But missing some key men, leaving options depleted, Klopp had precious little to call upon to turn the tide back in Liverpool’s favour – with Lallana the only real candidate to enter, as he did for Mane after 69 minutes.
While understandable not to turn to young trio Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria or Ben Woodburn in such situation, the lack of trust in defensive alternatives Klavan and Alberto Moreno who sat unused when Liverpool were hanging on spoke volumes.
It was only the second time this season that Klopp has not utilised all three substitutes at his disposal, highlighting the lack of genuine options to change and manage the game here.
By contrast, Eddie Howe changed the game with the introduction of Fraser, as well as the power added by Benif Afobe.
With injuries mounting up and a tough period to negotiate over and after Christmas, Klopp could find himself being more active than initially anticipated in the January window.