EPL

Liverpool 3 Bournemouth 0: Mane, Wijnaldum and Salah fire Reds back to the top

By Sports Desk February 09, 2019

Liverpool stormed back to the top of the Premier League with a dominant 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday. 

Sadio Mane scored for the fourth consecutive top-flight match in the 24th minute, after which point Jurgen Klopp's side kicked into top gear to banish the memory of their lacklustre back-to-back draws against Leicester City and West Ham. 

Mane opened the scoring in both of those games as well, but fabulously worked goals from the returning Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah ensured there was no chance of another wobble. 

Manchester City will return to the summit on goal difference if they beat Chelsea on Sunday. Such fine margins being at play mean Klopp might have liked to see a few more added to their tally as his team cut Bournemouth apart at will. 

Ryan Fraser forced an early save from Alisson and his inventive attacking meant James Milner had to be on his guard, but the makeshift right-back produced a wonderful cross for Mane to powerfully head home. 

Salah uncharacteristically missed his kick at the end of a 28th-minute counter-attack and the increased pressure on Bournemouth's backline told when Andy Robertson picked out Wijnaldum, whose first touch and lobbed finish over Artur Boruc were immaculate. 

Boruc palmed a stinging Salah volley over his crossbar in the final minute of the half and all of Liverpool's fabled front three were involved when the Egypt superstar got on the scoresheet in the 48th minute.

Roberto Firmino ran off the back of Nathan Ake to collect Mane's throughball and backheeled for Salah to coolly roll his 20th of the season into the bottom corner. 

Mane powered a header wide from Wijnaldum's chipped cross and the excellent Firmino played in Salah to clatter the crossbar in the 7th minute.

Wijnaldum made way for Trent Alexander-Arnold's welcome return from injury, with the England international following Firmino in forcing a fine late stop from Boruc.
 

What does it mean? Your move, Pep

The past week in this gripping, twisting and turning title race has belonged to Manchester City, but the fact remains that if Liverpool win all their games they will be crowned champions.

Pep Guardiola's side now host a Chelsea team who have already beaten them in the top flight this season. On the other hand, Maurizio Sarri's men were demolished 4-0 at Bournemouth 10 days ago – a ninth consecutive away defeat in all competitions confirmed the picture is very different on the road for the Cherries.

Wijnaldum brings classy assurance to Reds midfield

The Netherlands midfielder was one of the players Klopp lost to injury on the eve of Monday's 1-1 draw at West Ham. As in the 4-3 home win over Crystal Palace, which Wijnaldum also sat out, Liverpool lost the control of central areas and were vulnerable to opposition counter-attacks. There were no such struggles with Wijnaldum back in situ and a commanding performance was crowned by a beautifully executed goal.

Ake's Anfield aggravation

Wijnaldum's international team-mate Ake endured a somewhat contrasting outing, allowing his countryman too much room for the champagne moment before being easily bested by Firmino for the third goal. Playing at centre-back at the moment Liverpool rediscovered their briefly misplaced swagger made this a thankless task for Ake.

What's next

Liverpool have 10 days off before hosting Bayern Munich in the Champions League, with their game in hand on Manchester City coming at Manchester United on February 24. Bournemouth are back in action two weeks from now at home to Wolves.

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    Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold uses his tough outing at Manchester United last year as a "learning point".

    Alexander-Arnold, 20, faced plenty of criticism in the wake of the trip to Old Trafford last March as he was tormented by Marcus Rashford, who scored twice in the opening 25 minutes of United's 2-1 win.

    Ahead of another meeting with Liverpool's rivals, Alexander-Arnold said he still calls upon that encounter to encourage his continued develop.

    "I still use that game as a learning point," the England international told reporters.

    "That is probably the best thing to do – look back on the harder games you've had, the tougher games, learn what I didn't do well and what I could have done better.

    "The Manchester United game was definitely one of those games but rather than let it get me down, or put me down and think that maybe I am not good enough at this level, it was important to use it as a positive and see it as a learning step to improve.

    "I needed to use it as motivation to make sure something like that doesn't happen again and to prove that you are better than you showed on that day."

    If Liverpool avoid defeat on Sunday, they will move back above Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

  • Redknapp expects more twists as under-pressure Liverpool seek to end title drought Redknapp expects more twists as under-pressure Liverpool seek to end title drought

    Former Liverpool captain Jamie Redknapp believes the Reds are coping well with the pressure of the Premier League title race but knows from experience how difficult the run-in will be.

    The Reds are chasing a first top-flight championship since 1989-90 and, with 12 matches of the season left, sit level on points with leaders Manchester City with a game in hand.

    However, Liverpool have passed up opportunities to pull clear of City in recent weeks, failing to capitalise on the champions' defeat at Newcastle United as they drew at home to Leicester City, before Jurgen Klopp's men were also held at West Ham.

    Consecutive draws were followed by a win at home to Bournemouth, though, and Redknapp, who was speaking on behalf of TAG Heuer, the official timekeeping partner of the Premier League, expects further twists and turns.

    "I think they're coping well. Their record has been good as well," Redknapp told Omnisport.

    "I'll be amazed if Liverpool don't lose the odd game here or there in the title run-in and it's the same with Man City. It's impossible. These teams have got so many games ahead of them and the pressure's on all the teams.

    "I think it's just important how you react after [losing]. Even if Liverpool lose this game on Sunday [against Manchester United], it doesn't mean they're not going to win the title still, it's how you react after and make sure you pick up three points and you don't get affected by the pressure you get put under.

    "Of course there's more pressure on Liverpool than there is on City. I don't care what anyone says.

    "I've been there, a captain trying to win the title for Liverpool, and it weighs heavily on your shoulders because of all the history and all the greats that have won the league title.

    "It's 29 years since they last won it and it's very hard to take. I'm not trying to add to the pressure but that's what it is. You're going to have to get used to it and, if they win it once, they'll probably do what happened with United, they'll go and win it again."

    Redknapp does not believe it is a straight shoot-out between Liverpool and City, though, with Tottenham just five points behind the two frontrunners.

    "You have to put [Spurs] in it," he said. "If they win that game on Saturday, they're then putting pressure on a City side that have a cup game. The games are coming thick and fast for the other teams.

    "Tottenham haven't got the FA Cup. I know they've got the Champions League – 3-0 up already [against Borussia Dortmund], they should be fine in that situation – and they've got Harry Kane coming back, Dele Alli's not going to be far away, so you have to put them in the equation.

    "There is a situation that could arise where Liverpool and Man City fight it out and put themselves under pressure and Tottenham make a late run. It's happened before.

    "But they're obviously third favourites, the bookies will tell you that. I do think the title will be won by either City or Liverpool but if Tottenham did it wouldn't surprise me."

    :: Jamie Redknapp was speaking on behalf of TAG Heuer, Official Timekeeping Partner of the Premier League to promote the TAG Heuer Premier League Pressure Test (http://tagheuerpressuretest.com/).

  • Chelsea v Manchester City: Myopic Blues should show Sarri faith regardless of Wembley result Chelsea v Manchester City: Myopic Blues should show Sarri faith regardless of Wembley result

    Maurizio Sarri is on the brink at Chelsea and defeat in the EFL Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday could seal his fate.

    Recent results have been poor, but it is a remarkable situation, given Sarri was drafted in as the successor to Antonio Conte to wean the team off their ruthless counter-attacking approach and implement the attractive style of football he honed in the Italian doldrums and earned great acclaim for at Napoli. 

    His technical, expansive approach has drawn praise from Pep Guardiola and Arrigo Sacchi – two coaches renowned for revolutionising the game tactically. But Chelsea fans have quickly grown weary; a section of the support chanting "F*** Sarriball" following the 2-0 home loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday made that abundantly clear.

    Letting a head coach go without giving him proper time to have a chance to implement the system for which he was selected looks like madness. However, this is Chelsea, the club that have had 13 managerial appointments – permanent and interim – since Roman Abramovich took over in 2003. Managers come and go at Stamford Bridge, where short-termism reigns supreme.

    What's the problem?

    In addition to their FA Cup exit, Chelsea have been embarrassed 4-0 by Bournemouth and resoundingly thrashed 6-0 at City – their heaviest defeat in the Premier League era – in the past month.

    Fighting on four fronts has made for a congested schedule and Sarri has made no attempt to hide the effect that has had on his ability to stamp his mark on the team.

    "As you know it's not easy as we have no time, we are trying to solve our problems. It's not easy because we have to play every three days, so we have no time on the [training] pitch," said the Italian on Wednesday.

    His bedding-in period during pre-season was hampered by Chelsea wrangling with Napoli over a compensation package for his services. Sarri eventually started work in west London in mid-July, despite Carlo Ancelotti having been appointed as his successor at the Stadio San Paolo seven weeks prior.

    He tempted Jorginho to follow him from Napoli and lay the foundations for his Chelsea revolution rather than sign for City. He made a strong start at the base of the midfield, but as the Italy international's performances dipped, the scrutiny of Sarri's methods increased.

    Jorginho was brought in to move the ball quickly from the base of a midfield three, a key facet in making Sarri's approach work. It is a job the head coach does not believe N'Golo Kante, one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League for the past four years, is suitable for.

    It has been a consistent bone of contention this season, with Kante having to operate in a different, more attacking role – one he looks ill-fitted for. Yet while his offensive deficiencies are glaring, the World Cup winner should still have the capacity to use his tenacity and energy to aid a more expansive approach.

    A lack of faith?

    Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has been the only other permanent arrival – Christian Pulisic will not be available until next season – and that was enforced due to Thibaut Courtois' desire to move to Real Madrid, while the loans of Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain do not smack of a long-term investment in Sarri's ideals.

    And it seems the 60-year-old former banker is having trouble getting the players he inherited to buy in.

    "Maybe it's my fault, maybe I'm not able to motivate them … I didn't see the signal of my work," he said after a lengthy post-match debrief in the wake of the Bournemouth humiliation, before adding two days later he needed "to change the mentality completely".

    But Sarri is presiding over a group of players who know that when results fall away, the manager pays the price. The fact Eden Hazard's contract expires at the end of next season adds to the desperation to secure a top-four finish this term and secure Champions League qualification. Failure to do so will make it unlikely the Blues will be able to persuade him to stay.

    Sarri was brought in to give Chelsea a new identity on the pitch, but the seemingly unbending short-sightedness in the boardroom means another defeat might end the process before it really gets a chance to get off the ground.

    Relieving him of his duties would represent a missed opportunity to establish an exciting new era by the same old Chelsea.

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