Bournemouth’s Joshua King preys on Liverpool nerves to share points

Andy Hunter at Anfield
Joshua King, centre, celebrates scoring Bournemouth’s late equaliser at Anfield to deny Liverpool victory. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

By the end, with the Bournemouth players cavorting in front of their delirious supporters and an important step in the race for the Champions League squandered, Philippe Coutinho was not the only one in red feeling nauseous at Anfield. Liverpool had almost fulfilled Jürgen Klopp’s pre-match instruction to start winning ugly when they strayed into the grotesque.

There were three minutes of normal time remaining when Steve Cook launched a long throw into the Liverpool penalty area. Klopp’s team had shown resolve, courage and the occasional moment of class to turn an early deficit into what would have been an invaluable lead against Eddie Howe’s enterprising side. They had reverted to three at the back after the injured Sadio Mané’s replacement, Divock Origi, put them ahead in the 59th minute as a protection policy and in response to Coutinho departing through illness. But that old failing of defending a set-piece cost Liverpool yet again.

Dejan Lovren, Emre Can and Ragnar Klavan all had opportunities to clear but Joshua King, collecting Harry Arter’s shot from outside the area, was able to turn the Estonian defender far too easily and steer an equaliser beyond a furious Simon Mignolet. This season’s other familiar flaw, struggling against teams in the bottom half of the table, had also reappeared to undermine Liverpool’s hold on a top-four finish.

“We had to change Phil because he felt sick at half-time,” said the Liverpool manager. “He vomited then said he felt better but it was clear when he made the sign that he has to change. It’s no joy when you have to take off your best player.

“We decided to organise a little differently, three at the back plus two in front with Lucas [Leiva] and Emre to give the full-backs opportunity to use the space on the wings. We could close the game in one moment, we didn’t, we left it open – second goal after a set-piece and then nearly vomit from me. That is not nice. We have to take it. It is my responsibility all of this. I have to be more clear to my players but we will find a solution.”

Liverpool still had chances to win after King’s late leveller but Klavan headed straight at Artur Boruc from close range and Origi was unable to connect with Joël Matip’s flick towards the far post.

Matip, shifted to the substitutes’ bench as a result of a back problem suffered against Everton on Saturday, was the man chosen to replace Coutinho as Klopp opted for insurance over adventure at 2-1. Bournemouth’s refusal to accept defeat has yielded four points against Liverpool this season but their manager insisted Klopp’s defensive switch was not a factor in their latest impressive recovery.

“The game had changed and the scoreline was the more defining factor as we had to throw caution to the wind at the end,” said Howe, who instructed his tireless forwards, King and Benik Afobe, to drop deep and congest midfield whenever Liverpool had possession. “It was human instinct for Liverpool to sit back on what they had rather than anything tactical.”

Errors undermined Liverpool’s victory prospects at the start and close of the contest. Before kick-off, with Kenny Dalglish on the Kop and Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, in the directors’ box, the club paid tribute to the 96 people who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough in 1989, the survivors and the families, in their final home game before the 28th anniversary of the disaster. Anfield will no longer hold a memorial service on 15 April at the request of the families.

On the pitch, Georginio Wijnaldum gifted the visitors an early lead with a back pass under pressure from Arter straight to the lurking Afobe. The former Arsenal striker made no mistake and Mignolet had no chance of reaching Wijnaldum’s wildly optimistic pass.

Marc Pugh should have doubled Bournemouth’s advantage but volleyed inches wide when found unmarked at a corner. A big miss, punished five minutes before half-time when Roberto Firmino released Coutinho with an exquisite pass into the penalty area and he beat Boruc with an expert finish from 12 yards. In the process, he equalled Juninho’s record as the Premier League’s highest scoring Brazilian.

Wijnaldum atoned for his error when he sold both Jack Wilshere and Adam Smith a dummy inside the Bournemouth area and floated a perfect cross on to the head of Origi, who made no mistake from four yards out. For Liverpool, however, it would not be enough.

Divock Origi climbs highest to score Liverpool’s second goal. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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