Date: 4th December 2016 at 6:06pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

Alex Ferguson, the arch nemesis of Liverpool football club once famously uttered the words ‘football…….bloody hell’……if he was watching Sky sports this afternoon the same thought would have crossed his mind. In celebration of Eddie Howe’s 300th game, many of which were memorable, another epic was added to the collection as his side triumphed 4-3 with 3 goals in the last 14 minutes. The crowd going mad as a grandstand finish went our way for the first time since fellow scousers Everton rocked out of town just over a year ago.

At half time much of the talk was around avoiding relegation. At full time we were two points off Europe and the possibility of playing our reserve team against Nicosia………football, bloody hell.

So – to the match. Unfortunately we have to start with one of the most bizarre and subsequently ineffective tactical moves of Eddies 300 games. Playing three defenders out of their natural home positions and particularly Adam Smith at left back left the crowd worried at kick off. There was a perfect back four that we could all see and it took 60 minutes to find it. Wilshere returned as well with Brad Smith dropping out and King returning to the wing. Boruc was back too.

There then started the most one sided half of football against Bournemouth I can remember seeing outside of the Ethiad. Liverpool were in total control and Bournemouth’s fluidity was gone, particularly on the left hand side where Smith and Stanislas were frankly awful. With Gosling lost it was too much for Arter and the back four were also considerably nervous.

Wave after wave of neon green attacks were repelled but it looked very ominous… The first goal was more of an expectancy than a shock and came when MANE raced on to a ball, caught Ake on his heels and Boruc hesitated fatally allowing the little hit man to fire home. Eddie looked speechless. Worse was to come though when Smith was caught trying to cut in (again) and Henderson released ORIGI down the wing – this time Boruc did come when he shouldn’t and mistimed it completely. The impressive Belgian waltzed past him and finished brilliantly with a curling drive from a very oblique angle.

The ground was silent, the team a mess, no shape, confused and energy dropping fast. King kept trying and Wilshere’s class was always evident but there was no-one for them to give it too and the other’s just hit it anywhere or gave it away. It was an unrecognisable Bournemouth performance.

There were no attempts on goal at all by the home team although they were very unlucky when Ake was clearly tripped in the penalty area when about to shoot but as is the norm – the big team favouring Prem Refs were having none of it (despite the fact no player would fall in that position).

HT Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 2

The second half started in much the same vein….dull Liverpool possession, Bournemouth chasing and looking disorganised whenever the ball came into the box. Ibe had arrived for King at half time but this was making no difference.

Football is a game of fine margins and odd moments and the first turning point was about to happen. Stanislas went down injured and never got up – this brought Fraser into the action (something Howe admitted afterwards would not have happened). Stan was having one of his non-entity games and Fraser similarly can blow hot and cold. Today…….he blew Saharan.

From the resultant cleared free kick Wilshere brilliantly chested down the ball and released Fraser who was pole-axed by Milner. Penalty! WILSON found the exact same spot as last week for his fifth of the season.

Game on! Except it wasn’t. The game settled back into it’s routine with Liverpool in total control and pressing hard. They quickly restored a two goal advantage when the back four hesitated and CAN fired brillianty into the top corner from the edge of the box.

It was then the second turning point happened. Francis received a booking and was getting regularly taken apart by Mane, Milner or Firminio. Howe could see that his captain was walking a sending off and reverted to the normal back four except Ake at left back. From that moment on, the game changed completely and it was like old Bournemouth were back. When Afobe arrived for an old fashioned Eddie 4-4-2 it was like we were living the league one dream all over again!

Fraser was on fire, driving at Liverpool at every opportunity with his pace – he dragged the game back literally from the dead. Ibe seared down the left and Wilson chested a cross into Fraser’s path and Karius made a stunning save from the wee man’s volley. It didn’t deter FRASER though and the next time he broke he released Wilson, and moved into the middle to control the resulting cross and curl gorgeously home.

Game on! and this time boy was it! Liverpool were rocking as much as the home stands as Bournemouth attacked at will. Fraser again thundered down the right and crossed dangerously to COOK whose flick up, spin and thundering volley sent the ground into rapture. His repertoire of goals for a centre half are something else.

A minute later and heaven was almost reached as Afobe who had been very unsettling for the Liverpool defence spun Lovren and thundered a drive that again Karius did very well to keep out.

The moment hadn’t gone though, it was waiting to injury time for more dramatic effect. Eddie Howe sensed blood and waved all of his defence forward for a Cook long throw. Twice he took one, once headed out for a throw-in, the second time headed out to Cook. He knows a moment Cookie – and he set off on a thundering run into the middle before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt. The fairly tale script after the Arsenal blooper would have been for it to fly in, it didn’t Karius got a block to it but AKE snaffled it up at the second attempt to spark celebrations not seen since Grimsby at home……now I wonder what number game that was for Eddie……

FT Bournemouth 4 Liverpool 3

Boruc 5 – Two blunders………recovered ok to handle some set pieces.

Smith 5 – Dreadful at left back…….cracking last 30 at right back.
Francis 5 – Dreadul at right back…..cracking last 30 at centre back
Cook 8 – Solid all game at back and awesome going forwards
Ake 7 – Two defensive slips for goals but stunning otherwise. Odd.

Stanislas 4 – Never in it…..often outclassed against top teams.
Arter 6 – Worked hard but not his normal imposing self.
Gosling 4 – Totallly out of his depth as is often case against top footballers.
Wilshere 8 – Looked class all the way through – even in first half.
King 6 – Some good runs, I’m assuming he was injured.

Wilson 6 – Improved in second half after anonymous first.

Subs
Fraser 9 – What an impact – turned the game around on his own.
Ibe 6 – Some good runs and less profligate than previous games.
Afobe 7 – Good strength.

MOM – Fraser – simply outstanding. No tippy tappy passing – head down and hurt people. Let’s hope he can crack on because we need him in a team that over fusses sometimes to it’s own peril. 2 x assists and a goal – not a bad cameo.

Verdict.

Awesome result – odd game!! I would have bet any money at 3-1 down that we were out of that. The first half tactical set up and planning after a whole week of preparation was not acceptable and looked awful. How great we got three points and still (hopefully) learned the lesson. What Brad Smith and Tyrone Mings must have thought watching Adam Smith flounder – God only knows… That said – the game would have been 0-0 had it not been for the return of the blundering side of Boruc – hopefully for a one off as he has been outstanding this season.

We really played well for 30 minutes. Even that was the result of a necessary sub and finally an acceptance that the back four was all wrong. Still – if ever a manager deserves a lucky break after so many great decisions in a stellar career it was Eddie on his anniversary game!

After that it was all about Fraser. I wonder as well if Eddie will see the benefit of occasionally having wingers on their correct foot going at teams rather than coming in and playing square. The latter has certainly unarguably worked as it’s got us up three divisions but it’s good to mix it every now and again and seeing Fraser flying at teams and going outside was just joyous. Let’s do a bit of both moving forwards and be less predictable.

So…….the dream goes on! Another DVD is looming and all is well with the world. The impressive thing was the collective spirit and determination, particularly from the subs… they took a game that was dead and buried, dug up the corpse and gave it a kiss of life that must have bordered on a full blown snog with foreplay.

Incredible……..I wonder what the next 300 games of Eddie’s career hold.

Report by Neil Dawson

 
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