Cherries narrowly beaten at Anfield
- Paul Tierney
AFC Bournemouth couldn’t bolster their survival bid with three points but will be buoyed by their performance in the 2-1 defeat against runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side might have extended their unbeaten run at Anfield to 55 league games, but the Cherries showed encouraging signs – none more so than when Callum Wilson opened the scoring in the ninth minute.
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane then struck after Wilson’s opener, but Eddie Howe will be positive as his side defended excellently and gave the champions of Europe real problems.
Cherries frontman Joshua King didn't travel with the squad for the trip to Liverpool, with the Norwegian not recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea.
Junior Stanislas was the man who replaced him in the starting XI in the only change from last week's game with the Blues at Vitality Stadium.
And the Cherries rocked Merseyside when they pinched the ball back after nine minutes and Ryan Fraser lofted a superb ball forward towards Wilson just inside the Liverpool half, who had Joe Gomez for company.
He shrugged off his England international teammate before a clever pass from Philip Billing found Jefferson Lerma in space in the area.
The Colombian slid the ball to the back-post where Wilson was there to tap in – and after a VAR check and huge Liverpool protests, the opener stood and the visitors were ahead.
The Cherries were well in the game, but were then forced into a substitution when Steve Cook fell awkwardly in a challenge with Roberto Firmino.
The skipper had to make way for Jack Simpson for his seventh appearance for the season, but the young defender was holding his hands up in apology after 25 minutes.
Simpson unfortunately got the ball stuck under his feet, allowing Sadio Mane to dispossess him and find Salah in the box who drove a low effort which squeezed in at the near post to level the scores.
AFC Bournemouth had to dig in after that but their solid defensive efforts were undone in the 32nd minute when Mane found space in behind the visitors’ defence, racing clean through on goal and finishing clinically into the corner to give Jurgen Klopp’s side the advantage.
Adrian was kept busy with Junior Stanislas' long-range effort and a few uncertain parries, but the Reds retained the lead going into the break.
Liverpool came out on top in the second-half but couldn't break through a solid Cherries defensive shape, and Fraser almost caught the league leaders out just after the hour mark.
Billing knocked a ball over the top for Fraser who went through one-on-one with a bouncing ball and Adrian racing off his line.
The Scotland international looked set to score with a looping effort but from out of nowhere, Reds skipper James Milner slid in to avert the ball off the line with a sensational goalline clearance - with Spaniard Adrian wiping out Fraser after the ball had gone past him.
That was the headline chance of the second-half as legs became tired on both sides, but Howe's side defended excellently to restrict the league's joint-top scorers to few real chances of note.
There was some bad news for the Cherries late on, as Billing was forced off with an injury - the midfielder limped off with Howe having already brought on Simpson, Dan Gosling and Dominic Solanke.
That meant AFC Bournemouth played a good period of the game with ten men, but Billing was willing to limp back on to give his all despite not being able to perform to his maximum with the injury to his leg.
And there was one final moment which could have earned the Cherries a point at Anfield, when Lewis Cook played a sublime through ball to Ake who had gone forward in the box with seconds on the clock remaining.
He was one-on-one with Adrian and squared the ball to Wilson who had an open net at his mercy. Somehow, the England international couldn't get the ball from under his foot to apply the finish, a golden opportunity six-yards out completely unmarked.
Howe's visitors couldn't take that final chance to earn a point, but will be enthused by their defensive solidarity and counter-attacking gusto ahead of facing Crystal Palace - winners against Watford - at Vitality Stadium next week.