Leaders too strong for Cherries
- Chris Kavanagh
Liverpool's strength and further worrying injuries were the tale of AFC Bournemouth's 3-0 home loss to the Premier League leaders on Saturday.
The home side gave as good as they got in the first half hour, but moments after the huge blow of seeing Nathan Ake hobble off injured they were punished by some Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain magic, the midfielder volleying home a long ball.
Before the break Naby Keita notched a second after some sharp thinking from Mo Salah, Liverpool in charge at half time.
Keita and Salah combined again after the restart, a fine pass through allowing the Egyptian to slide a shot past the 'keeper to make it 3-0 to the visitors; further injury concerns rising for Bournemouth ahead of a busy festive fixture list when Callum Wilson was also forced to depart early with what appeared on first sight as another hamstring strain.
There were two changes from midweek for the Cherries ahead of kick-off, both enforced. Captain Simon Francis came into the team for the injured Adam Smith while Ryan Fraser stepped in for Harry Wilson, ineligible against his parent club.
Mild but cloudy, Liverpool got the game under way at Vitality Stadium. Bournemouth dropped deeper allowing the visitors - in their white away kit - to have the lion's share of possession in the early exchanges.
Aaron Ramsdale saved and then held on well from a Salah shot, the Cherries keen to break and getting joy through the pace of Arnaut Danjuma down the right flank.
A Jefferson Lerma surge led to Callum Wilson letting the ball get away from him, a prelude to Dominic Solanke striding into the box and shooting from an angle, a deflection taking the ball into the side netting at the near post.
The counter working, Danjuma next deftly flicked a cross past Reds 'keeper Alisson but agonizingly a foot wide of the far upright, before James Milner looked to swerve home a shot from the left side of the penalty area, but seeing the ball pass a yard too far right.
Ake stopped a goalwards Salah spurt with a blockbuster sliding tackle, but excitement then turned to agony with the Dutch defender staying on the turf and holding the back of his upper leg following the challenge. Jack Simpson soon coming on in his pace for his first Premier League minutes of the season.
Within 60 seconds, a ruffled Cherries defence was breached, Oxlade-Chamberlain picked out by Jordan Henderson's pass on halfway and the former Arsenal man volleyed brilliantly past Ramsdale from ten yards to open the scoring.
Liverpool were forced into a change of their own before the break, Trent Alexander-Arnold on for Dejan Lovren, and the visitors grabbed a second just before half time.
Egyptian Salah was the architect, his back to goal and attracting defenders he backheeled for Keita who, with just Ramsdale to beat, slotted home his first Premier League goal into the right side of the net.
Salah missed an unguarded net at the back post following a corner, the Cherries glad to hear the half-time whistle from referee Chris Kavanagh.
Fraser and Diego Rico combined down the left after play restarted, but from a dangerous crossing position Alisson was able to gather.
Liverpool scored their third when a defensive mistake allowed Keita to regain the ball, picking a pass through to Salah who showed fleet of foot before sliding home a smart finish back across goal.
The news only continued to get worse for Bournemouth, Callum Wilson chasing after a ball over the top but pulling up at full pace and needing to be immediately substituted, Dan Gosling into the action as Eddie Howe's options diminished even further.
Danjuma had the ball in the net, but only after Rico had been flagged offside ahead of putting his low cross in, and as the game entered the final ten minutes the Reds began toying with the Cherries, passing the ball around and looking to snuff out any chance of a home resurrection.
There was no doubting the home side's efforts to the final whistle, but Alisson was untroubled as Liverpool stretched their club-record unbeaten league run to 33 matches.