Liverpool produced the perfect response after two frustrating draws against Leicester and West Ham with a routine 3-0 win against Bournemouth to retake their place at the top of the table before Manchester City face Chelsea on Sunday. The Reds delivered a full-proof performance with Sadio Mane opening the scoring before a goal from Gini Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah either side of half-time ensured the three points.
Here are the observations from the match:
Gini Wijnaldum shows Liverpool what they’ve been missing
The Dutchman has been a key miss for Liverpool in the middle of the park, having stepped up this season both in terms of quality and consistency of performance. Returning to the starting eleven having recovered from a niggle, he showed exactly what the Reds have been missing, exuding a sense of authority and calm on an afternoon where Liverpool needed to keep cool heads. Albeit usurped by Manchester City in the table prior to kick-off, Jurgen Klopp’s side knew a win would see them regain their spot as No.1 and dually responded in no small part to Wijnaldum’s performance.
A constant, athletic force in the middle of the park, he was on hand to mop up whenever Bournemouth regained possession and threatened on the counter-attack. What’s more, he was the link man between defence and attack, providing incisive balls into the front-three while showing the will to get in and around the six-yard box himself. Having gone ahead through Mane’s opener, Wijnaldum was involved in several moves that should’ve ended in goals, none more so than a counter-attacking move that saw the Dutchman square to Mohamed Salah. However, he was slightly overzealous in his attempt, squandering the chance for the Egyptian.
A few minutes later and he had the goal his performance deserved. What a goal it was, too.
Bombing forward on the offensive, Gini broke the lines of the Bournemouth defence before a sumptuous chipped effort went over Boruc to double the lead. A performance fuelled by ingenuity and desire, this was the latest evidence of his importance to the side. My man of the match.
Naby Keita steps up in centre midfield
Having come under scrutiny in the last few weeks after failing to hit the ground running at Anfield, Naby Keita silenced his critics, making huge strides forward on Saturday. Where previously he had been left as the weak link in Liverpool’s relentless pressing system, here he was the instigator, prompting his teammates to push on high up the pitch and force Eddie Howe’s team into mistakes. On the ball, he was much more effective in affecting the play throughout, showing a creative eye that we’d been given glimpses of against the Hammers.
Yes, Naby. pic.twitter.com/d1B8zOVU4o
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) February 9, 2019
That’s precisely where Liverpool’s third goal of the afternoon came too, with Keita producing a lovely dinked through-ball to Roberto Firmino, who had the awareness and cheek to backheel it into the path of Mohamed Salah. The full-time whistle saw Jurgen Klopp give the midfielder a warm embrace and it’s of little surprise given just how efficient he was. With far more to come from him as the season wears on, he could well be hitting his stride just at the right time for the Reds.
Liverpool regain their mojo
It goes without saying that the 3-0 win was a pivotal result for Liverpool, giving them lift off after a frustrating few weeks in the Premier League. However, arguably just as impressive was the return to the movement and interchanging of positions that saw them pose such a threat earlier on in the season. Right from the get-go, the game took a fast tempo as Roberto Firmino dropped off the centre-halves to act as a conductor for his teammates. A combined effort between Mane and Salah made it a nightmare afternoon for the defenders while the exuberance of James Milner and Andy Robertson provided further width to the attack.
The best evidence came in the build-up to Mohamed Salah’s goal, with Roberto Firmino acting as the talismanic creator. Everyone knew where to run and what those around them would do, it was almost telepathic. A joy to watch, Liverpool could and probably should have scored much more on the day but this was a return to their very best, dispatching an opposition that had beaten Chelsea just weeks earlier with ease.