More defensive woe for Liverpool

Liverpool 2 Bournemouth 2: Divock Origi provided the proof that Liverpool can prosper in attack without Sadio Mane. The problem for manager Jurgen Klopp is that his team remain so vulnerable defensively.

More defensive woe for Liverpool

Just as he did against Everton on Saturday, Origi followed up a Philippe Coutinho goal, to put Liverpool in sight of a win to boost their Champions League qualification chances. But whereas their efforts ensured victory in the derby, it was not enough here. Joshua King’s late equaliser, amid all sorts of wobbling at the back, meant that Klopp’s team have still not won a league match this season without Mane in the side. Given that the Senegal striker may well miss the rest of the season with the knee injury that forced him off at the weekend, that is a major concern for the manager.

Klopp’s team started against Bournemouth with the sort of defensive howler that has become as much a feature of Liverpool’s season as Mane’s goals. The goal they conceded to Everton at the weekend was the result of statuesque defending from a corner. They went behind to Bournemouth as a result of the sort of sloppiness that can cause a manager to tear his hair out.

Georginio Wijnaldum was under minimal pressure from Harry Arter as a Bournemouth attack broke down 30 yards from goal, seven minutes in. But the Dutch midfielder made a calamitous error of judgement by passing back to his goalkeeper without spotting the lurking Benik Afobe, who nipped in to roll the ball under the helpless Simon Mignolet.

That goal threatened to deflate an atmosphere that had been heightened before kick-off on an emotional night. Fans and players alike paid tribute before kick-off to the 96 Liverpool supporters who died in the Hillsborough disaster, 28 years ago this month.

Those at the Kop end were joined by Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish, forsaking his usual main stand seat, as they held up individual sheets of red, white and yellow paper that formed a giant mosaic featuring the number 96.

All those present had come to pay their respects, but also to cheer the club that unites them. After Afobe’s goal, it looked for a while as if their hopes of a home win would be denied. For a while after going behind, Liverpool struggled; the home side had almost scored in the third minute as Lucas Leiva glanced on a Philippe Coutinho corner, with Dejan Lovren narrowly failing to connect at the far post as he dived in head first.

For most of what remained of the opening half, Klopp’s team laboured. Divock Origi scuffed wide from a Coutinho corner when well-placed, but otherwise, the shooting was largely from long-range.

Goalkeeper Artur Boruc saved comfortably from Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino, while Coutinho’s free-kick brushed the top of the net as it cleared the bar.

The defensive wobbles remained. Marc Pugh volleyed wide a great chance to extend Bournemouth’s lead after Steve Cook had glanced on a Simon Francis corner, while King outpaced Lovren all too easily down the right before striking a fierce rising shot that just cleared the angle of post and crossbar.

Yet just as Liverpool’s first-half frustration threatened to get the better of them, they equalised. Origi glanced Mignolet’s deep kick towards Firmino, who slotted a through pass for Coutinho to control and beat the goalkeeper.

That seemed to calm Liverpool’s jitters a little, and they almost went ahead early in the second half as full-back Nathaniel Clyne cut in from the right past Francis and hit a 25-yard stinger that Boruc just got a touch to as it bounced out off the underside of the bar.

And they went ahead just before the hour as Wijnaldum made amends for his early blunder, dancing past the recalled Jack Wilshere before looping over a cross for Origi to head in.

Still Liverpool were not completely safe, though, as Charlie Daniels burst down the left for the visitors and slammed in a low cross that just eluded Afobe and King in the centre.

And as it transpired, they could not see the job through. A long throw-in caused panic in the home defence, and after Arter drove the ball back towards goal, King pivoted to score from eight yards.

Liverpool (4-3-3):

Mignolet; Clyne, Klavan, Lovren, Milner; Lucas, Can, Wijnaldum; Origi, Coutinho (Matip 65), Firmino.

Substitutes:

Karius, Moreno, Alexander-Arnold, Grujic, Woodburn, Sturridge.

Bournemouth (4-4-2):

Boruc; A Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Ibe (Fraser 61), Arter, Wilshere, Pugh (Gradel 83); King, Afobe.

Substitutes:

Allsop, B Smith, Cargill, Mousset, Cook.

Referee:

Lee Mason (Bolton, Greater Manchester)

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox