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Anfield gets the message as unstoppable Reds return to the top of the Premier League

James Pearce watches Liverpool return to the top of the Premier League and is impressed with the performances of the players and fans

ByJames Pearce
19:04, 9 FEB 2019Updated21:27, 9 FEB 2019

The battle cry came from their King and Kopites delivered.

All the nerves and anxiety of recent weeks were swept aside as Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League table in style.

'Unity is Strength' read the banner on the Kop and this was the revitalised Reds operating as one powerful united force. They were unstoppable.

“When it gets towards the finishing line that’s when you need them most of all,” declared Sir Kenny Dalglish on the eve of Bournemouth's visit. “The fans can get them over the line with their support.”

The message to embrace and enjoy this title race rather than fret about potentially falling short got through loud and clear.
Anfield was bouncing from start to finish as that thunderous encouragement helped inspire a dominant display and a resounding victory as they re-established their three-point lead over Manchester City.

Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to supporters' group Spion Kop 1906 in his programme notes and rightly so.

They had taken a stand against the negativity which had seeped in following the insipid draws against Leicester and West Ham.

They had mobilised a fanbase to show up early and make a difference. The volume levels throughout were more akin to a big European night. Here was the power of Anfield.

'Jurgen's cracking up' taunted City fans on the other side of Stanley Park in midweek after the Reds' wobble in the capital.
This sparkling performance - packed with quality, pace, hunger and passion - made a mockery of claims that either the manager or his players are crumbling under the pressure.

A beaming Klopp certainly looked happy enough as he dished out bear hugs and fist pumps after the final whistle. The manager had demanded a show of passion and he got exactly that.

The Reds will have a spring in their step when they fly off to Spain for a training camp next week. They will face Bayern Munich at Anfield a week on Tuesday with momentum restored.

The improvement in all departments was vast. On the day that Klopp urged fans to 'fasten their seatbelts' for the run-in, Liverpool took the handbrake off.
The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were back to their dazzling best as they tormented Eddie Howe's side.

The return of the outstanding Gini Wijnaldum, who overcame a sickness bug which ruled him out of training on Friday, added class and control in midfield, while alongside him Naby Keita's Liverpool career took a massive step forward and Fabinho impressed once again.

Defensively, the Reds looked so much more assured as they kept only their second clean sheet since Boxing Day.
Mane headed home the opener – scoring in a fourth successive Premier League game for the first time – before Wijnaldum's exquisite lob extended their lead.

When Salah finished off a glorious team move for his 20th goal of the season early in the second half, the points were secure.

For the first time in 2019 this was a triumph to be savoured rather than endured as Liverpool's grip on proceedings never loosened.
With Wijnaldum replacing Adam Lallana, there was only one change from the side which drew 1-1 at West Ham on Monday but Liverpool were unrecognisable.

Everything that was lacking at the London Stadium – energy, intensity, organisation and attacking spark – was back in abundance against the Cherries. The balance of the midfield looked so much better with Wijnaldum alongside Fabinho and Keita.
There was an early scare when Ryan Fraser's strike was pushed away by Alisson Becker but Liverpool soon settled and turned the screw.

Fabinho stamped his authority on the contest as he thundered into tackles and used the ball intelligently. The Brazilian fed Salah, who cut inside past Diego Rico but curled high and wide.

The atmosphere was in stark contrast to the recent visit of Leicester when frustration in the stands undoubtedly transmitted to the field. When James Milner's pass failed to find its intended target, there was applause for the idea if not the execution. Klopp nodded in approval and clapped along with them.

Bournemouth were penned back deeper and deeper as Firmino was thwarted by Artur Boruc who then clung on to Salah's deflected shot.

Andy Robertson carried the fight as he rampaged down the left at every opportunity. The Scottish left-back was immense with expertly timed tackles to deny Jordon Ibe and then Adam Smith. His name boomed around Anfield.

Firmino, who had been a passenger against West Ham, was so much more influential as he made a nuisance of himself and repeatedly forced mistakes.

Finally, the pressure told midway through the first half. A corner was half cleared but Keita fed the ball back out to Milner on the right.
The vice-captain whipped in a beauty and Mane powered home a header from six yards out.
Liverpool should have swiftly added to their account. It was a blistering counter-attack started by Firmino and Keita on the edge of their own box.
Mane swept it down the left to Firmino, who in turn fed the ball perfectly into the path of Wijnaldum. However, rather than pull the trigger, the Dutchman decided to lay it off to Salah, who fluffed his kick.
Wijnaldum made amends in breathtaking fashion 11 minutes before the break. Keita played his part as he dispossessed Ibe and Robertson lofted a pass into Wijnaldum's path. The former PSV Eindhoven man only needed two touches. One to control and the other to dispatch a stunning lob over the stranded Boruc. It was only Wijnaldum's second goal of the season and his first at Anfield since October 2017.

Players and fans alike were enjoying themselves and Salah almost added a third on the cusp of half-time. His sweetly struck volley was tipped over by Boruc.
Three minutes into the second half Salah found the net to strengthen his grip on the Golden Boot. He's now two goals clear of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
It was a move which showcased Keita's showing confidence after a tough first season at Anfield. This was the Guinean's most complete performance for the Reds as he was a creative force throughout.
Mane received Milner's throw-in and fed Keita, who dispatched a pin-point through ball for Firmino. Rather than shoot, the No 9 unselfishly opted to back-heel into the path of Salah, who slotted into the far corner.

Liverpool could and should have had more. It was one-way traffic. The unmarked Mane nodded wide before Salah struck the bar after a slick one-two with Firmino.

There was the welcome sight of Trent Alexander-Arnold making his comeback from injury off the bench as Wijnaldum was afforded a richly deserved standing ovation.

Keita, Firmino and Alexander-Arnold all had chances late on but couldn't convert.

The party inside Anfield was in full swing. 'Liverpool top of the league' crowed the Kop.
Both on and off the pitch, this was a day which should fuel the belief they will still be there come May.

MATCH FACTS

Liverpool: Alisson, Milner, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum (Alexander-Arnold 77), Fabinho, Keita, Mane (Origi 87), Salah, Firmino (Sturridge 90).
Not used : Mignolet, Camacho, Henderson, Lallana.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Smith, Cook, Ake, Rico (Mepham 80), Ibe (Solanke 59), Gosling, Lerma (Mousset 73), Surman, Fraser, King.
Not used: Begovic, Simpson, Taylor, Surridge.
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Attendance: 53,178
Goals: Mane 24, Wijnaldum 34, Salah 47
Bookings: Matip, Robertson, Rico, Smith

Man of the match: Gini Wijnaldum. Back with a bang.

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Liverpool player ratings vs Bournemouth - Naby Keita much improved but Wijnaldum the difference
Ian Doyle runs the rule over Liverpool's performance as the Reds thrash the Cherries at Anfield

Alisson Becker 7
Decent early stop from Fraser, the Brazilian made a good save late on to keep out a Mousset drive.

James Milner 8
Revelled in the space down the Liverpool right, particularly during the first half when he consistently played in dangerous crosses and provided the ball for Mane's opener.

Virgil van Dijk 7
A little loose in some of his marking early on but his aerial domination was complete come full-time. Strolled it.

Joel Matip 7
Great pass to release Firmino for an opportunity, and made a couple of key interceptions when Bournemouth have threatened. Had a real battle with King. Booked.

Andy Robertson 8
Drew roars of approval from the home crowd with two great tackles first half, and played in Wijnaldum for the second. Better than of late. Booked.

Gini Wijnaldum 9
Should have shot when clear on one break but made amends with a sumptuous finish for the second. His energy, power and running from deep made such a difference. Deserved standing ovation on his substitution.

Fabinho 7
Dictated the play during the opener quarter by driving Liverpool on, and subsequently looked to protect as well as probe. Notably, was comfortable in a midfield three.

Naby Keita 8
Tried so hard to affect play in the first half and come into his own after the break, a brilliant pass helping fashion the third and his pressing, positioning and distribution much improved.

Mohamed Salah 8
Closely marked in the first half but still found space, and came alive second half with a well-taken goal and a shot against the crossbar.

Roberto Firmino 8
Had a shot smothered by Boruc and almost latched on to Matip's fine throughball. Hit and miss first half but good second. Have an extra mark for that filthy backheel, Bobby.

Sadio Mane 8
So lively down the left, his movement was difficult for Bournemouth to cope with. His fine header, the crucial opener, was his fourth goal in successive games.

Substitutes
Trent Alexander-Arnold (for Wijnaldum 77)

A welcome return for the defender. Nearly scored.
Divock Origi (for Mane 87)

Belgian.
Daniel Sturridge (for Firmino 90)
Danny buoyed by win bonus.

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By Ian Doyle Liverpool reporter
10:21, 10 FEB 2019

Now that was a lot more like it.

Liverpool steadied their title challenge after a minor wobble with an emphatic 3-0 win over Bournemouth at Anfield.

Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah got the goals, but it was the exhilarating manner of the performance from Jurgen Klopp's side that most caught the eye.

And the watching national media were pretty impressed.

Andy Dunn of the Mirror has a reminder for the nay-sayers.
“For all the talk of some sort of slump, it pays to remember they have lost just ONE league match this season,” he writes.

“Klopp admitted he had not been happy with the two previous performances but the odd blip is inevitable.
“And in the remaining dozen matches, Klopp’s team is unlikely to have too many assignments as straightforward as this.
“But if the momentum had stalled, it is back with Liverpool now.”

Simon Hughes, writing in the Independent, believes the Reds' win is perhaps worth more than just the three points on offer.
“This felt like a statement performance and a statement victory,” he says. “Liverpool’s winning margin should have been greater than it was and perhaps that is the only disappointment considering Manchester City’s appetite for goals. Had it finished 7-1, Bournemouth could not have complained.

“Liverpool, though, were right at it. They were organised, they pressed and they suffocated a Bournemouth team who did not suit their own set-up, which was meant to try and stifle, perhaps to build a sense of frustration.
“There had been a feeling ahead of kick off that any victory at all would do for Liverpool to return them to the summit of the Premier League table after an uncomfortable period of ten days where they did not capitalise on City’s defeat at Newcastle to extend their advantage.

“Yet this was their best display of 2019 so far and it probably matters because they look convincing again.”
Sam Wallace of the Telegraph was another to sense Liverpool had rediscovered their mojo.

“The Liverpool manager left the pitch throwing that celebratory uppercut for the benefit of the home fans who had seen their own side incapacitate the visitors some time before the hour and could have scored six by the end,” he scribes.

“This was a return to the vintage attacking form of Liverpool before they dropped four points over their previous two games, even if, for Klopp, the essence of his determined, hard-working side had never gone away."

“There was a formidable goalscoring performance from the midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum who got off his sickbed to play, and the sheer 90-plus minutes relentlessness of Andy Robertson was compelling once again.

“Yet when Roberto Firmino rolled his studs over the ball at full speed to play a pass inside for Mohamed Salah to score the third it felt like Anfield had its moment. This was a level of technical quality and team-play with which Bournemouth simply could not live.”
Finally, Jonathan Northcroft of the Times couldn't help but notice the free-flowing nature of one Liverpool player in particular.

James Pearce reacts to Liverpool's stunning win over Bournemouth

"Arms folded, big smile, milking the joy of the Kop,” he pens. “This was more like it for Mohamed Salah and Liverpool: a brilliant goal, a burnished performance, a breezy win.

“It’s a precious day, in a title race, when a contender gets to complete a lap at a coast and the experience was all the more important to Liverpool given their stumbles of late. They topped up confidence, dialled down anxiety and husbanded energy with this romp and now get a break - a fair-weather training camp in Spain - while Manchester City face Chelsea and then a rugged FA Cup away day at Newport - before they next play.

“What nerves? Liverpool looked themselves again, free from the safe passing and cautious positioning seen in draws with Leicester and West Ham. Instead, both full-backs were high and wide, the pressing was bold and someone always looked to run in behind.”

Copyright - The Liverpool Echo

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