Liverpool never turned on the style against Bournemouth in its 2015-16 home opener, but it did deliver the substance its fans at Anfield are craving.
Liverpool beat Bournemouth 1-0 on Monday in front of 44,102. Christian Benteke scored the game’s only goal in an eventful home debut for the Belgian, and his teammates fended off the spirited Cherries to claim three more points in this early stage of the season.
Premier League (@premierleague) August 17, 2015
Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2015
The build-up to the game promised attractive, attacking soccer from two teams that like to play such a style. Most expected Liverpool to dominate, but Bournemouth ignored the predictions and took control early on.
Bournemouth will win plenty of admirers this season with its commitment to its principles, but points will be as elusive as goals for the Cherries. Without luck and the quality to convert chances into goals, they’ll struggle to earn results their efforts otherwise would warrant.
Liverpool has recovered the organization and determination required to succeed, but its game still is missing tempo and sharpness. Bournemouth didn’t punish the Reds’ deficiencies. A better team might succeed where the Cherries failed.
Defender Tommy Elphick appeared to have given the Cherries the lead by heading a corner kick past Simon Mignolet after five minutes, but referee Craig Pawson disallowed the Bournemouth captain’s goal for a foul on Dejan Lovren. This was the first of two pivotal decisions from Pawson and his officiating crew that would bear heavily on the game’s outcome.
Liverpool started the game slowly, with Bournemouth retaining the initiative for the first 20 mintues. The Reds eventually sprung to life through Benteke, who narrowly missed the top corner with a 24th-minute effort from distance but scored the game-winner two minutes later.
Jordan Henderson provided the killer pass, delivering a one-time cross into Bournemouth’s goal-mouth. The Cherries’ offside trap would have worked if the officials ruled correctly, but they ignored Philippe Coutinho’s starting position, allowing play to continue as he whiffed at Henderson’s delivery. Benteke was well positioned at the far post and tapped Henderson’s cross past goalkeeper Artur Boruc. The goal was a poacher’s special from the multi-dimensional striker.
Benteke’s goal temporarily boosted Liverpool, but the hosts never managed to fully impose themselves on Bournemouth. Henderson and Coutinho came closest to doubling the lead before halftime. Their chances stemmed from attempts to make something out of nothing, instead of methodical attacking play.
Coutinho missed another pair of chances from distance, and James Milner’s attempt to redirect Jordon Ibe’s cross from closer range flew wide. Those were two of Liverpool’s best chances in a second period in which Bournemouth reclaimed and held onto the the impetus.
Most of the Cherries’ best moves flowed through winger Matt Ritchie, who failed to trouble Mignolet with his 48th-minute shot on goal but frightened the Liverpool goalkeeper and his teammates by hitting the post in the 60th.
The teams tried to tilt the balance in their favor through substitutions and aggression — Pawson issued yellow cards to three players in three minutes between the 75th and 77th — but their methods failed to open make waves.
The game nearly petered out without incident, but Benteke hit the crossbar in the 90th minute.
Benteke hits the crossbar! http://t.co/CiE7RqijBH—
Liverpool Gifs (@LiverpoolGifs) August 17, 2015
He probably should have scored in that situation, but the Reds gladly will accept his overall and goal-scoring contribution to the winning effort.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@premierleague