Just what the doctor ordered.
Liverpool could hardly be described as an ailing patient after two concerning draws but this win over Bournemouth saw the whole of Anfield back in the rudest of health. Vibrancy on the pitch was matched with an intensity from the crowd which suggested the populace have woken up to the responsibility of being that extra player.
The tone has been set earlier in the week when Jurgen Klopp urged that we shout our souls onto the pitch.
The same rallying call from supporters to fill the ground early, fly the flags that make the Kop a uniquely stunning visual backdrop and most of all, bring our voices.
A voracious media, determined to create a sense of unease by incessant talk of the pressure afflicting the Reds, have done us a favour.
Anfield is at its best when it creates a siege mentality. As the Reds lined up before kick-off to a fierce rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, there was a sense that the all-pervading desire from outside to see Liverpool fail has worked wonders for Liverpudlians’ appetite for the fight. On another day the idea that “it’s only Bournemouth” might have seen the crowd go through the motions, but the primaeval roar at the start suggested that The Cherries had smuggled Norman Whiteside and Eric Cantona into their ranks.
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) February 11, 2019
The Reds were indebted to an early save from Alisson Becker; the keeper parrying a shot aside from Ryan Fraser but it wasn’t long before Bournemouth were forced back into the bright sunshine at the Anfield Road End. With Gini Wijnaldum restored to the middle of the park and Naby Keita suddenly brimming with confidence, the zip and tempo which had been missing at West Ham was reassuringly back in abundance.
While Liverpool have stuttered in recent matches, Sadio Mane has been the obvious exception; always alive to opportunity, constantly surging, forever willing to take a risk. After James Milner’s corner had been partially cleared his second attempt at a cross was met by Mane at the near post with a speeding bullet of a downward header past Artur Boruc.
The crowd adore this little street fighter and the cheer that greeted his fourth goal in consecutive games was as hearty as anything we’ve heard all season.
If there has been a legitimate frustration of late it has been that the Reds have haven’t pressed home an early advantage. Here though the crowd roared Liverpool forward in pursuit of a second goal. Andy Robertson’s chipped pass forward into the path of Wijnaldum was brought down with the deftest of touches and his lob over the advancing keeper was measured to perfection. The ball hovered in the air for what seemed like an age before bouncing into the vacant net to precipitate riotous acclaim from the Kop.
Mohammed Salah’s jiggery-pokery had been a feature of the first half, cutting in from areas on the right where he so flourished last season. A stinging volley just before the break was tipped over by Boruc but Salah wasn’t to be denied for long. In almost the first act of the second period, the Reds added a third goal that had Anfield purring. Salah’s trademark left-foot finish was remarkably familiar after Kieta’s perfectly weighted pass and Roberto’s cute back heel.
A three-nil lead gave the Kop license to party. Firmino’s part in Salah’s goal prompted a raucous serenading of the Brazilian; his song cascading down from the Kop for several minutes, the volume amplified with each chorus. The sheer quality of Liverpool’s football had the crowd in its most exultant form, the atmosphere reminiscent of the stretch in 2014 when the title last beckoned.
In the booming chant of “Allez, Allez, Allez” which thundered round the ground however, there was an acute feel that this time Liverpool won’t be denied.
The fans thirsted for a fourth goal but were forced to settle for three. Under the roof of the Kop, chances begging as Mane headed wide and Salah clipped the bar from Firmino’s outrageous reverse pass. When Firmino burst through to bear down on Boruc in the closing stages, the keeper’s save prevented a great moment with the Kop aching for him to score.
This was a day when Liverpool played like Champions with all the swagger and flair of the great sides of old. The Reds have reminded themselves of their quality at the most critical time and sent out a renewed message that they have all of the talent, desire, grit and belief to go all the way.
*Odds are subject to change