I was filled with a feeling of mild disappointment when I was watching AFC Bournemouth trail Liverpool in the final minutes of last night’s match at Anfield.
Losing 2-1 at Anfield might not seem like the worst result in the world – but the fact that so many elements had gone in our favour over the course of the evening I would have felt seriously aggrieved if we hadn’t managed to get anything out of the game.
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Fortunately we managed to grab a late equaliser which helped us maintain a healthy seven point cushion from the bottom three though – as at one stage during the evening that gap was cut to a mere four points.
When I say elements were in Bournemouth’s favour I’ll elaborate what I mean. The first factor was that Liverpool are in the midst of an injury crisis – and there were numerous players they couldn’t pick on Wednesday including Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson. Philippe Coutinho was also not fully fit, and could only play 60 minutes, luckily for us. The wily Brazilian caused us a fair few problems when he was on the pitch (and his absence helped us as we pushed forwards for an equaliser near the end of the game).
Add in the fact that Jürgen Klopp’s side have struggled in this campaign against sides in the bottom half of the table – all five of their defeats this season have come from such teams – and you can perhaps understand why I felt we could travel to Anfield with the belief of getting a positive result.
blow, saying that he had to battle to hold back bodily fluids.
And so it turned out, although we certainly didn’t make it easy for ourselves. I thought playing 4-4-2 was ill-advised and would make us far too open for instance – the way we played at St Mary’s with that set-up didn’t instil much confidence that we could achieve great things playing that formation against the better sides in the division.
Bournemouth’s first half performance cast my doubts quickly aside however, as although we had little of the ball and few efforts on goal the Cherries’ chances were arguably much more clear cut than Liverpool’s . Marc Pugh’s volley that cruelly dipped wide of the post and Josh King’s effort that rose just over the bar were the opportunities that first come to mind.
Then there was the fact fate was seemingly shining upon us for the first goal – gifted to us by a toe curling error from Georginio Wijnaldum – that meant I would have been gutted if we’d devalued such fortune by throwing away yet another lead.
After the promising first half the second 45 minutes did make me question whether we had picked the correct formation after all, as we struggled to put together any real moves of quality. We seemed especially to struggle with James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne’s runs from the wings. We looked stretched and didn’t seem to know how to break Liverpool down after Divock Origi had given them the lead.
What was concerning is that Jack Wilshere should have been the player to give us that creative spark in the middle of the park, but was largely anonymous for much of the game – making Howe’s decision to drop him to the bench in recent games quite justified.
Jordan Ibe was equally lacking when it came to creating chances – I can’t remember him doing anything of any real note in his hour on the pitch apart from losing the ball in increasingly hilarious ways, and he should have been replaced by Ryan Fraser at half time instead of on 60 minutes.
All these elements were combining to make it feel as if we were letting a great opportunity to get a result against an uninspired and under-strength – if hard working – Liverpool side slip through our fingers.
Fortunately you can never bet against Bournemouth’s ability to battle against the odds, and our recent knack of picking up points when we’re not at our best or most inspired – see the recent results against Swansea and Southampton – is hugely welcome.
If we could have found this resilience earlier this season we might not have thrown away quite so many points on the road and would be all but safe. But as it stands we should be heading towards another season in the Premier League anyway. And you know what? I’ll take that.