Liverpool returned to the Premier League’s top four with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Bournemouth this afternoon.
Philippe Coutinho got the ball rolling for the Reds on 20 minutes with an individual effort which saw him dribble past two Bournemouth men and find the bottom corner.
Sloppy defending from the Cherries gifted Liverpool a second as the perseverant Roberto Firmino hooked the ball back for Dejan Lovren to head home from close range.
Mohamed Salah‘s 20th goal of the season made it three before half time, and Firmino glanced a fourth past Asmir Begovic from Coutinho’s cross on 66 minutes.
Relive how the action unfolded on the South Coast with our minute-by-minute updates below.
3.30pmWelcome, ladies and gents! These two teams put on one of the games of the season last year as Bournemouth twice came from behind to beat Jurgen Klopp‘s side. If today’s match is half as good than we are in for an entertaining afternoon! Team news coming up for you shortly…
3.36pmLiverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been ringing the changes of late and has made four more for this trip to the South Coast, with captain Jordan Henderson recalled and Sadio Mane rested to the bench.
3.38pmSimon Mignolet is back in goal in place of Loris Karius and Joe Gomez replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starts in midfield, deputising for the suspended Emre Can.
3.40pmAdam Lallana is fit enough for the bench, having missed all but one minutes of this Premier League season with a thigh injury. There is no place however for Daniel Sturridge, who has been carrying a niggle as of late but has also been linked with a move away from Anfield in the January transfer window.
3.42pmHaving seen his ‘fantastic four’ fire a blank on only their second league start together of the season against West Brom on Wednesday, Klopp has dropped Mane to give Oxlade-Chamberlain a go. It will be interesting to see who of him or Coutinho is used centrally, and whom is used on the left wing.
3.44pmBournemouth gave Manchester United a run for their money in midweek, but manager Eddie Howe has gone for freshness as he aims to end a five-match winless run, making five changes for Liverpool’s visit. Jermain Defoe and former Reds winger Jordon Ibe are among those recalled.
3.46pmHowe names an unchanged back five but restores Lewis Cook and Andrew Surman, who had played every minute of Bournemouth’s league campaign prior to the trip to Old Trafford, in midfield at the expense of Harry Arter and Dan Gosling, who scored a famous FA Cup goal against Liverpool for Everton.
3.48pmDefoe was surprisingly left out against United following his superb double against Crystal Palace, but is back in the starting lineup today as Callum Wilson misses out on the squad entirely. Bournemouth will hope Wilson’s omission is not fitness related considering the striker’s injury hell in recent seasons.
3.50pmBournemouth’s other two changes come on the wing where Ibe and Marc Pugh come in for Ryan Fraser and Junior Stanislas. Ibe made 58 appearances for Liverpool before leaving for the Cherries in 2016, scoring four goals.
3.52pmBenik Afobe is named among the Bournemouth substitutes despite being expected to leave in January. Reports suggest that the Cherries have slapped a £15m price tag on the striker and that Afobe’s former club Wolves are leading the chase to sign him.
3.54pmKlopp’s rotation policy has been criticism after recent results, especially the Merseyside derby slip up at home to Everton. However, the German says it is simply a reality of managing a top-six club.
BBC Sport quotes him as saying: “It’s just a job to do, we have to make sure we have players as fit as possible for the specific game. We thought, and we still think, the squad gives us that opportunity, and that’s why we did it.”
3.56pmRotation is a part of the modern game, but has Klopp taken it too far this seaosn. He has made a total of 65 changes to Liverpool’s starting lineup in this season’s Premier League, which is 23 more than any other team. In comparison, he only made a total of 54 changes to his starting lineup in the league.
3.58pmThere would have been no questions about Klopp’s rotation had Liverpool won the Everton and West Brom matches of course. Even on the back of two disappointing draws, the Reds’ form is good as they are unbeaten in eight in the league – their best run since November 2016.
4.00pmLiverpool’s recent record against non-top six opposition should give them encouragement heading into this one. The Reds have only lost one of their last 22 league games against teams from outside the Manchester giants and big London trio, winning 14 of those matches and drawing seven.
4.02pmWhat makes Liverpool so dangerous against so-called lesser opposition is that they have four major goal threats. Of their last 27 goals in all competitions, 23 of them have been scored by either Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino or Philippe Coutinho.
4.04pmSTAT: A goal today and Mohamed Salah will become the first Liverpool player to score at least 20 league and cup goals in a single season since Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge both did so in the 2013-14 title tilt under Brendan Rodgers. And it is only December…
4.06pmOnto Bournemouth now, who in many ways are the bottom-half equivalent of Liverpool – exciting going forward but vulnerable in defence. Cherries manager Eddie Howe certainly sees some similarities.
He told reporters this week: “I think we have a lot in common [with Liverpool’s style]… our first thought is always to be positive, take the game to the opposition and to be brave in all aspects of our play. I don’t think we should change from that, we have tried the other way and it doesn’t suit us.”
4.08pmHowe has stuck rigidly to his attacking principles since Bournemouth’s promotion to the Premier League, and those comments make it clear that they intend to take the game to Liverpool today. An open game could suit Jurgen Klopp’s men, but should also make good viewing for the neutrals!
4.10pmRESULT: The first part of this Sunday’s double bill from the Premier League is over with Manchester United hanging on to beat West Brom 2-1. There were a few nervy moments at the end for the Red Devils, but victory takes them three points clear of Chelsea in second.
4.12pmWhile we’re focussed on the Premier League table – three points today will lift Liverpool into the top four, which is the peak of their ambitions now this season as Manchester City run away with the title. Victory for Bournemouth will see them climb five places to 12th in the standings.
4.14pmBack to Bournemouth, whose record at the Vitality Stadium will be a concern to Howe. His side have claimed just eight Premier League points at home this season – only bottom-of-the-table Swansea City have fewer with seven.
4.16pmGood news for the Cherries, with Howe confirming to Sky Sports that Wilson misses out today because he requires an injection in his knee which is “nothing serious”. Bournemouth have Chelsea in the EFL Cup quarter-finals in the week, and that may come too soon for him too.
4.18pmIn the absence of Wilson, Liverpool have Defoe to contend with this afternoon. The veteran poacher has not always produced against the Reds – five goals in 23 games – but does have three in his last three meetings with the Merseyside giants.
4.20pmPlenty of Fantasy Football managers will have one eye on today’s game, it seems…
SCOUT: @LFC’s Salah is the top GW captain choice (20.9%) for the first time this season. He has produced 33 #FPL points in his last three away apps#BOULIV pic.twitter.com/RCX6m216d7
— Fantasy Premier League (@OfficialFPL) December 17, 2017
4.22pmLess than 10 minutes until kickoff at the Vitality Stadium for Bournemouth’s final home game before Christmas. Can they give the home fans an early present or will Liverpool be Scrooges on the South Coast?
4.24pmHEAD TO HEAD: Bournemouth’s memorable 4-3 win in this fixture 12 months ago is their only triumph in 11 league and cup games against Liverpool. Seven of those 11 have ended in defeat.
4.26pmLast season’s two meetings between Liverpool and Bournemouth produced a total of 11 goals – only the games between Crystal Palace and Swansea (12 goals) yielded more in the 2016-17 season.
4.28pmPREDICTION: I am predicting more of the same from this fixture; goals, open football, and more goals. This time there will be no sting in the tail for Liverpool, though. The Reds to win 3-1.
1 minKICKOFF: Josh King gets the game underway for Bournemouth, with Liverpool in their changed white strip. The visitors have an early chance to swarm forward as Henderson picks off a Surman pass and plays into Firmino, but the Cherries recover to thrwart the danger.
3 minBournemouth drop off Oxlade-Chamberlain to get a cross in and Coutinho is the suprisinging figure towering high at the back post for a header which flies over the crossbar. The Brazilian has started on the left wing, which is where he spent most of his time before this season.
5 minAs it often does when Liverpool are involved, the game has started at a quick tempo, and it is the Reds who have had the large majority of the ball. Bournemouth are yet to get hold of it and are working hard to keep up with Liverpool’s quick possession in midfield.
7 minGreat play from Daniels, who intercepts a through-ball meant for Salah and brings the ball out before releasing Defoe. Lovren is on the cover though and ushers the danger back to Mignolet who clears.
9 minFirmino does well to keep the ball in on the right byline but Begovic is alert to collect the cross. Moments earlier, Salah had his first opportunity to cut onto his left foot but Ake blocked the shot.
10 minYELLOW! A sloppy pass from Cook plays Bournemouth into trouble and Ake is forced to concede a free kick and yellow card for tripping Firmino right on the edge of the box.
12 minWOODWORK! Coutinho rattles the post with the resultant set piece! It is a delicate strike from the Brazilian who has Begovic beaten, but the angle is slightly against him and the ball hits the outside of the woodwork before rolling safely across the area.
13 minSHOT! Salah brings down Henderson’s crossfield pass beautifully and skips past Daniels while cutting onto his left foot, only to blaze a shot from a great position high over the crossbar.
15 minLovren is unlucky to be penalised for a foul on King in the right channel. Bournemouth can’t make anything of the set piece and Smith snuffs out a potential Salah counter from the Klavan clearance.
17 minThe hosts have a counter-attacking threat of their own through King but the Norwegian can’t get past Klavan on this occasion.
19 minSHOT! Bournemouth have their first shot of the game as the ball falls to Ibe on the edge of the box but he drags wide from 25 yards.
20 minGOAL! BOURNEMOUTH 0-1 LIVERPOOL (COUTINHO)
20 minLiverpool lead and it is sheer brilliance from Coutinho, who plays a one-two with Robertson on the Liverpool left before bursting inside, skipping past Francis and Cook and squeezing a shot in at the near post. It is a magnificent individual goal. Are you watching Barcelona?
22 minThat goal is probably a fair reflection of the balance of play, but Bournemouth did not look too troubled by the way that Liverpool were moving the ball about. The Reds have two or three players capable of individual inspiration though and it was simply magical from the Brazilian.
24 minA dangerous break through Salah breaks down when Wijnaldium miscontrols a layoff from the Egyptian.
25 minBLOCK! Liverpool are in full flow now as Salah back-heels the ball into the path of Henderson, whose cutback was heading towards the bottom corner before a crucial block from Francis.
26 minGOAL! BOURNEMOUTH 0-2 LIVERPOOL (DEJAN LOVREN)
26 minIt is a quickfire double for Liverpool, and this time they get an assist from their opponents. Firmino does brilliantly to keep a corner alive at the back post, hooking the ball back into the middle where Lovren was on his toes to stoop and head home. Bournemouth’s defenders thought the ball had gone behind – which it hadn’t – and went to sleep. Lovren didn’t though and finally the Croatian has something to shout about.
28 minLiverpool supporters won’t be taking anything for granted yet. They were 2-0 up inside half an hour in this fixture last December, and we all know how that finished. Plus, even three-goal leads have not been safe enough for them this season. They have Bournemouth on the ropes though.
30 minSUBSTITUTION: Another blow to Bournemouth with King forced off with an injury. Junior Stanislas is his replacement, rather than Ryan Fraser who was the architecht of that Cherries comeback last season.
32 minThe danger for Bournemouth is that the more they push for a reply the more threatening Liverpool are. A third goal before half time might kill them off because lightning doesn’t often strike twice.
34 minPugh lifts a really good cross into the box with his left foot and Klavan has to head behind for a corner. Set pieces could be a route back into the game for the Cherries but Liverpool stand firm for now.
36 minBournemouth are enjoying a good little period but a promising break goes to waste when Ibe forces Daniels too wide and Liverpool are able to get bodies back. The Reds always give you a chance!
39 minWOODWORK! Golden chance for Bournemouth to pull one back as Defoe strikes the post from Ibe’s through-ball The usually-clinical striker was one-on-one with Mignolet and rolled it underneath the Belgian’s legs, only to see the ball rebound out and Robertson clears.
40 minSAVE! At the other end, Begovic needs to be at his best to keep out a low drive from Oxlade-Chamberlain.
41 minDaniels gets down the left on a classic overlap and is fed by Pugh. The cross is slightly behind Stanislas who completely scuffs his shot.
43 minSAVE! Brilliant from Liverpool but Begovic is equal to it! Coutinho and Salah exchange a perfect give-and-go and the Egyptian must score from 10 yards, but Begovic makes a superb block.
44 minGOAL! BOURNEMOUTH 0-3 LIVERPOOL (MOHAMED SALAH)
44 minIt is only a temporary reprieve for Liverpool as Salah makes it three before the break. It is simply wonderful play from the Egyptian, who cuts back on Daniels, drops the shoulder on another helpless Bournemouth defender and pokes a shot beyond Begovic from just outside the six-yard box.
5.20pmWhat a rollercoaster few minutes before half time, but we shouldn’t expect anything else from Liverpool. Defoe came within inches of getting Bournemouth back into the game and minutes later, they are almost certainly out of it courtesy of another goal from the Premier League’s top scorers.
5.22pmSalah has now hit the 20-goal mark in all competitions this season – the first Liverpool player to do so in four seasons.
5.24pmThis first-half Liverpool performance has been absolutely electric. The front three have all made important and stylish contributions and Bournemouth just have not been able to live with them. If they can get it right at the back next season, they will push Man City all the way. They’re that good going forward.
5.26pmIt speaks volumes of Liverpool’s defensive problems that, even at 3-0, this game does not feel completely secure. Were it any other top-six club in this position at half time you wouldn’t think twice about the full-time result. A clean sheet would be a real bonus today for Jurgen Klopp.
5.28pmMight Klopp be tempted to pull Salah off early in the second half? He has spoken of some injury concerns for the Egyptian, but he withdrew him against Everton and it came back to bite him.
5.30pmSUBSTITUTION: News of a half-time sub for the Cherries and it is Ryan Fraser, Liverpool’s nemisis from last season, who is coming on for Marc Pugh. The speedy winger scored and won a penalty in Bournemouth’s comeback last season. Do you believe in Deja Vu, Cherries fans?!
46 minKICKOFF! Liverpool get the game back underway and Fraser is straight into the action, harrassing Gomez on the Bournemouth left and giving away a free kick. He’s certainly come out with intent!
48 minA poor clearance from Oxlade-Chamberlain comes straight back at Liverpool and Defoe produces a decent cross which Lovren heads away as Stanislas prepared to attack the delivery.
49 minAke gets away with a poor touch as Daniels gets across to prevent Salah running clear on goal. That is what the Egyptian does – puts the fear of god into defenders with his pace.
51 minLiverpool have taken a less gung-ho approach to the start of this second half, almost as if Klopp has pleaded caution at the break. Even so they can get in behind Bournemouth, and Firmino wins a corner off Ake.
52 minAn early Henderson cross nearly lands at Firmino’s feet after Begovic and Francis got into a muddle on the penalty spot. The ball ends up going across the box without anybody getting on the end of it.
54 minSurman releases Smith with a nice pass but Wijnaldum has remained disciplined in midfield and is well positioned to make a good tackle.
56 minSUBSTITUTION: Final change for Bournemouth as Steve Cook comes on for an injured Daniels. I’m not suprised that he’s damaged something as Salah has run him ragged all afternoon. Those two enforced alterations mean Howe doesn’t have the option to call on Afobe later on.
58 minWOODWORK! Oxlade-Chamberlain pinches the ball from Ibe and drives forward into the area, striking the outside of the post with a left-footed shot he was never in full control of.
60 minSAVE! Defoe creates room to get a shot away on the left edge of the area, but Mignolet makes a save and pushes it far enough away from Stanislas to prevent a rebound.
62 minSmith intercepts a risky pass from Klavan to Coutinho and feeds Ibe, who nearly gets down the outside of Robertson only for the Scotsman to recover and block his shot behind for a corner.
64 minThe injury to Daniels has seen Ake shifted across to left-back. His extra pace has kept Salah quiet for the last 10 minutes, but he doesn’t offer the same attacking threat as Daniels.
66 minGOAL! BOURNEMOUTH 0-4 LIVERPOOL (ROBERTO FIRMINO)
66 minFirmino gets a deserved goal, intelligently angling a header from Coutinho’s cross past Begovic for his 13th of the season. There was a hint of offside about it, but Liverpool won’t care because this fourth goal kills the ghost of last year’s Bournemouth comeback and seals the three points.
69 minBeautiful one-touch football from Liverpool on the edge of the box sets up a shooting chance for Coutinho, but he stumbles over his own feet and his eventual shot is blocked by Cook.
71 minSUBSTITUTION: Salah gets a standing ovation from the travelling Liverpool fans as he is spared the final 20 minutes. Adam Lallana, once of Bournemouth, will get a 20-minute run out to work his way back to fitness.
73 minYELLOW CARD! Lallana is straight into the book for a late slide tackle on Ibe. It might take him a while to get used to the pace of Premier League action judging by that challenge!
76 minSUBSTITUTION: Firmino is another Liverpool star to get a little rest ahead of Friday’s match with Arsenal. Dominic Solanke is on in his place, still seeking his first Reds goal after seeing an effort ruled out for offside against West Brom last time out.
79 minSome of the Bournemouth fans are starting to stream out already but the players must endure another 10 minutes plus stoppage time of this torture! Salah and Firmino’s omissions might make the final minutes slightly more manageable.
81 minLiverpool are in cruise mode now although Robertson has not stopped charging up the left and feels as though he should have a free kick for a tug by Cook. The Scotsman has been excellent today deputising for Alberto Moreno.
83 minThe visitors work the ball nicely to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right but he blazes his shot wide of the near post. Aside from his finishing, the former Arsenal midfielder has been another very good performer today.
85 minCoutinho lets fly from range but drags his 25-yard shot a few yards wide.
87 minSUBSTITUTION: Final change for Liverpool as Ings comes on for Coutinho, and the former Bournemouth striker nearly scores straight away with a left-footed shot into the side-netting.
90 minThe good news for Bournemouth? They only have three minutes of stoppage time left to suffer. The bad news for for Bournemouth? They have Chelsea and Manchester City still to play this week.
90+2 minSHOT! Solanke is desperate to get on the scoresheet and has a shot blocked before testing Begovic with a low drive, from which Lallana heads the rebound over the bar.
6.21pmFULL TIME: BOURNEMOUTH 0-4 LIVERPOOL
6.23pmThe full-time whistle is blown, much to the relief of Bournemouth who were completely outclassed today by a rampant Liverpool. With Salah and Coutinho in that form, the Reds are a match for anyone and are now back in the Premier League’s top four ahead of a big match with Arsenal on Friday.
6.25pmThat’s it from the Vitality Stadium, but Liverpool fans can relive a wonderful performance with our match report. Thanks for joining Sports Mole this afternoon. Until next time, goodbye!