Review by Phil Sawyer (Twitter: @sawyer_phil)
AFC Bournemouth produced a stunning comeback on Sunday, delighting the Dean Court faithful with another famous Premier League win – this time against 5 time European champions, Liverpool!
Nathan Ake was the eventual hero as he poked home deep into injury time, and Ryan Fraser deservedly picked up a man of the match award for his efforts from the bench. But this didn’t feel like a day for individual praises. The astonishing turn of events on the South Coast was born of an incredible team effort, fuelled by the untiring spirit that has propelled the club from the depths of League 2 to the top half of the Premier League.
It certainly didn’t feel like the game was heading to such an incredible climax as the teams turned in for half time, with Liverpool 2-0 up and seemingly cruising. The Cherries had been made to suffer in the first half and were suffocated by the physicality of the visitors, who neatly converted midfield dominance into a 2 goal lead courtesy of forwards Saido Mane and Divok Origi.
Eddie Howe made some tactical tweaks during the interval. He pitted his wits against the highly regarded Jurgen Klopp, rearranging his back line in search of much needed solidity and introducing the mercurial Jordan Ibe. His team responded, and got their first sniff of the visitors’ defensive vulnerabilities ten minutes into the second half. Ryan Fraser – on as a substitute for the injured Junior Stanislas – was fouled in the box, after a typically explosive burst within seconds of entering the fray. Wilson tucked the spot kick away, and Bournemouth seemed to have stemmed the tide and found their way back into the game.
Liverpool hit back however, and the game looked out of reach for a second time when Emre Can expertly steered a low delivery into the top corner. Despite once again finding themselves on the wrong side of a 2 goal deficit, the Cherries were looking dangerous, following the introduction of Benik Afobe and a switch to an attacking 4-4-2 formation. When a lightening fast counter attack was converted by Fraser, momentum had shifted firmly in Bournemouth’s favour. There was a real sense that they could score at any time, as the team poured forward in search of an equaliser.
The goal came courtesy of central defender Steve Cook, who might be easy to stereotype as an unlikely goalscorer. The reality however is that he has genuine ability in offensive areas. He showed no shortage of technique or attacking instinct when – in one deft movement – he controlled the ball, swivelling and stabbing home in front of a delirious North Stand. The fans knew they were witnessing another special performance from their team, and the atmosphere was electric around Dean Court.
With the score at 3-3, it would have been understandable for Howe to have sounded a retreat and consolidated defensively. Instead – with the whole stadium sensing blood – Cook was sprinting up to launch long throws into the opposition area deep into injury time. Panic ensued, Ake pounced, and Bournemouth had beaten title chasing Liverpool for the first time since they first met in 1927.