After missing more chances than I care to mention during the loss to Manchester United at the weekend, it’s a bit surprising to say that Premier League level finishing was the difference as Liverpool ran out deserved winners at Dean Court today.
A pair of goals from Raheem Sterling, who missed more than his fair share at Old Trafford on Sunday, sandwiched a crisp strike from Lazar Markovic before Bournemouth pulled one back early in the second half through former Everton man Dan Gosling. The Cherries missed a host of opportunities to turn up the heat on the struggling Reds, but a lack of composure in front of the net — surprising for a team that scored five at the weekend — was ultimately their undoing.
Although Callum Wilson’s attempt to get the hosts off to a flying start as he sidefotted just wide of the post in the opening exchanges looked like a sign of better things to come, unfortunately for Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, he’d soon be treated to more of the same — just not from Liverpool.
As the half neared the midway point, Brendan Rodgers saw his sides patient play reap dividends when they were rewarded with the opener. Markovic, taking up the left wing-back role we saw him play to great effect at the weekend, spotted Jordan Henderson making a run to the far post and picked him out with a neat chipped cross. The Reds vice-captain, spotting the run of Sterling, did well to head across the face of goal for the 20-year old, playing once again up top by himself, to beat Cherries ‘keeper Artur Boruc with a header of his own.
Less than ten minutes later, the visitors would double their lead through Markovic under
almost comical circumstances. A deep-ball into the box found Philippe Coutinho running to the by-line when a whistle from the Bournemouth end tried to trick the Brazilian into thinking he was offside. The 22-year old was unfazed, though the same could not be said about the Cherries defender as he turned his back and raised his hand to signal for the erroneous call. Though Boruc initially saved Coutinho’s shot, the rebound fell to the Markovic at the edge of the box and he made no mistake on the half-volley to bag his first Liverpool goal.
The hosts would continue to press and play an attractive, attacking brand of football that’s not often seen in the Championship, trailing by a pair, they were always going to be vulnerable on the counter-attack — something that Adam Lallana and Sterling exploited to great effect.
Kolo Toure, composed at the back throughout, moved the ball onto the former Southampton captain who ran at the retreating defence with purpose before picking out the stand-in striker with a well weighted through-ball. A shimmy, a twist and a little feint and Sterling had his second of the match and a boost in confidence for this weekend’s meeting with Arsenal.
With the hour mark rapidly approaching, you’d hope that be job done for the Reds, but with the way Bournemouth were creating chances — and the speed at which we usually concede — this one was far from over. Gosling, who scored against Liverpool in an FA Cup replay during his time at Goodison Park, pulled one back for the hosts when he ran onto Matt Ritchie’s centered pass and dodged a diving challenge before some fancy footwork ended with him sliding the ball just beyond Jones.
The Cherries weren’t about to stop there either; Eunan O’Kane looped a header over the post after ghosting into the box, Gosling struck the post, Ryan Fraser’s shot was blocked by Henderson and Ritchie almost got a goal to go along with his assist, but he put his shot just wide when he really should have scored.
If nothing else, a bit of luck would have seen Howe’s side at least force penalties, but as it did on Sunday against Manchester United, finishing made all the difference as Rodgers relived some of mounting pressure on him to move on to the semi-finals and within touching distance of his first trophy as Liverpool boss.