Review by Mark Wallington (Twitter: @mark_wallington)
“Bring on Ryan Fraser”, yelled the Bournemouth fan next to me. “We want the Wee Man!”
He’d been yelling this for most of the game. His theory was that Fraser would give the Liverpool full backs, Milner and Clyne, something to think about and stop their forays deep into the Bournemouth danger zone. I wanted to tell him to shut up and leave the tactics to Eddie Howe. But then, of course, Eddie did bring on Fraser. The Liverpool full backs were immediately contained, and suddenly it was a different game.
Until that point, Bournemouth had sat deep and let Liverpool have the ball, a very un-Eddie Howe-like way of playing, and one which seemed to be asking for an onslaught. It certainly provided the most one-sided game of the season, as Liverpool piled forward. Bournemouth had only two shots on goal in the whole match. The astonishing thing was they scored with both of them
The first was a gift. A back pass that allowed Afobe to intercept and, crucially, didn’t give him enough time to think about it and mess it up. He neatly dinked it past Mignolet, and from there went on to have one of his best games for the Cherries. He was superb in the air. The fact that his best headers were all in the Bournemouth goalmouth, rather than Liverpool’s, wasn’t his fault. That was where the game was played.
It was an exhausting evening for the visitors as they fought and fought to win the ball only to give it straight back to their hosts. But that, as my neighbour was only too keen to point out at the top of this voice, is what happens when you play deep.
Cook and Francis were Titans, but even they couldn’t hold out indefinitely. A neat bit of footwork saw Coutinho pounce on Firmino’s through-ball for Liverpool’s equaliser, and then, on the hour, Origi rose above all around him and headed into the roof of the net, to put the Merseysiders in front.
There’s rarely a way back against such a strong team – and in such an intimidating stadium as Anfield, with it’s vast new stand that extends up into the clouds. But then on came Fraser, and he quickly inspired a nothing-to-lose spirit. Smith and Daniels were now the full backs surging down the wings as Liverpool were put on the back foot for the first time in the match.
No one was more pleased, of course, than my neighbour, who by now had vindication written all over his face. His evening was complete when, with only minutes to go, King picked up a long throw-in from Cook, pivoted and slotted home an unlikely equaliser.
The Liverpool fans looked stunned, although not half as stunned as their Bournemouth counterparts. A few weeks ago we had shipped six down the road at Everton and I think most of us were content to settle for a mere 2-1 defeat here. We certainly weren’t prepared for this: an equaliser that felt more like a winner.
A tortuous last four minutes had to be endured, and then four more of injury time, during which Liverpool managed to miss a couple of sitters. But then Eddie Howe and his boys were walking over, arms aloft in celebration, telling us there was never a problem.
Eddie may even have looked up in our direction and called: “thanks whoever yelled at me to bring on Fraser. It never occurred to me.”