Bournemouth 4 Liverpool 3
Jurgen Klopp was forced to defend the character of his players after they threw away a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 at Bournemouth in a remarkable match which underlined serious flaws in Liverpool’s title credentials.
The shock result at the Vitality Stadium means Liverpool, deflated by a 93rd-minute winner from Nathan Ake as Bournemouth completed a spectacular comeback, missed out on an opportunity to go second in the Premier League table – instead remaining four points behind leaders Chelsea.
Coming just a week after star player Philippe Coutinho was ruled out with an ankle injury for up six weeks, it leaves Liverpool’s ambition to win their first league title since 1990 once again hanging in the balance.
There have to be serious questions, too, about the strength of Klopp’s squad after his defence, which wobbled alarmingly in the final 15 minutes, included James Milner at left-back and Lucas Leiva at centre-half, both playing out of position.
The result is all the more remarkable because Bournemouth, who were playing in the fourth tier of English football as recently as six years ago, had never beaten Liverpool in nine previous meetings in all competitions dating way back to 1927.
They also had to recover after excellent goals from Sadio Mane, Divock Origi and Emre Can appeared to put Klopp’s side in control, only for the visitors to unravel late on.
But Klopp refused to be angry, saying: “We have no attitude or character problem. No-one is born a winner. Not in the first two or three months. You have to learn it.
“It doesn’t feel too good right now but sometimes we need it. I’m not angry. These things happen and you cannot be champions in December.
“I would say we were 100% before now. Now we are 99%. But it’s quite simple to go back to 100%. Nothing happened today apart from losing three points. Everything else is ok.”
Bournemouth’s comeback was inspired by a match-winning performance from 22-year-old substitute Ryan Fraser, who only came on because of an injury to teammate Junior Stanislaas in the second half with his team trailing 2-0.
The Scottish winger won a penalty with his first touch, scored Bournemouth’s second at 3-1 and set up his team’s equaliser for Steve Cook as the game was turned on its head.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, said: “I don’t think I’ll ever forget this game. It was a right contrast of emotions. At half time we were in real trouble and Liverpool were excellent and that makes the comeback even more impressive.
“I thought Ryan Fraser was absolutely magnificent. He’s a very young player and had to make a decision in his career to come down to England from Aberdeen, signing for a League One club at the time and that was a huge leap of faith. But hopefully it’s paid dividends. He’s got a great future.”
For a time, it looked as though Liverpool would cruise this game. They went ahead after 20 minutes when Can’s superb long pass sent Mane racing through on goal. He easily shrugged off Ake before dinking a shot past goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
It was 2-0 two minutes later, Boruc haring recklessly out of his goal to chase a ball into the channel from Henderson, only for Origi to beat him to it. The Liverpool striker, in his first Premier League start of the season, curled in a brilliant effort from a tight angle.
Bournemouth replied from the spot after 56 minutes when Milner clearly brought down Fraser who had only arrived on the pitch seconds earlier - Callum Wilson scoring confidently to start the comeback.
Liverpool responded quickly, going 3-1 ahead after 64 minutes when Mane cut the ball back for Can to score with a fierce swerving shot from the edge of the area.
But then suddenly they lost concentration and unravelled alarmingly - which must be a concern as the title race hots up.
The inspirational Fraser had one effort well saved for Bournemouth before finishing an excellent breakaway move with a smart finish from inside the area after 75 minutes.
Suddenly the visitors were panicking – and when Fraser crossed again from the right, Wilson cut the ball back for defender Steve Cook to control and volley home an unlikely equaliser.
It could have been 4-3 if Liverpool keeper Loris Karius had not superbly saved from Benik Afobe seconds later but Bournemouth did get a winner when Karius fumbled Cook’s long-range shot deep into injury time and Ake pounced from close range.
Klopp defended his goalkeeper, claiming “it was not a lucky situation”. But it was a momentous goal for Bournemouth, and a sobering one for Liverpool.
BOURNEMOUTH: Boruc 5; Francis 7, Cook 8, Ake 7, A Smith 6; Arter 6, Gosling 6 (Afobe 75; 6); King 6 (Ibe 46; 6), Wilshere 6, Stanislas 6 (Fraser 55; 9); Wilson 7.
Subs not used: Federici, Pugh, B Smith, Mings.
LIVERPOOL: Karius 5; Clyne 7, Lucas 5, Lovren 5, Milner 5; Can 7, Henderson 6, Wijnaldum 6; Mane 7 (Lallana 69; 6), Origi 8, Firmino 7.
Subs not used: Mignolet, Klavan, Moreno, Ejaria, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold.
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