Liverpool provided a much-needed response in the Premier League title race, dispatching Bournemouth 3-0 behind goals from Sadio Mané, Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah.
Mané 24′ (Milner)
Wijnaldum 34′ (Robertson)
Salah 48′ (Firmino)
Big response needed at Anfield
A pair of less-than-ideal results against Leicester and West Ham saw Liverpool enter the weekend in second place on goal difference.
The Reds returned to Anfield in dire need of a result that would boost the mood among supporters and ease the nerves in what has become a tight title race.
Virgil van Dijk pleaded patience with the Anfield faithful in the wake of the palpably nervous environment against the Foxes.
Jürgen Klopp made one change to the side that drew 1-1 away to West Ham midweek, with Georginio Wijnaldum returning in place of Adam Lallana in a midfield three alongside Fabinho and Naby Keita. Xherdan Shaqiri missed out with a slight abdominal issue.
A long-awaited opening 45
The tempo was electric from the first whistle, with Ryan Fraser carving out a decent opportunity for Bournemouth inside two minutes. Alisson did well to palm away the Scotsman’s curled effort from 12 yards out.
Liverpool responded with sustained pressure, hemming the visitors in the own half and hounding them in possession. The first chance for the hosts came on 9 minutes, as Fabinho fizzed a ball into Mohamed Salah, who had taken up his customary role from last season on the right side of a three-man attack. The Egyptian carried into the box and cut inside onto his favored left foot before firing high and wide.
Sadio Mané then played a beautifully weighted ball for Roberto Firmino a minute later, forcing a sharp save from Artur Boruc, who was quick off his line to cut down the angle.
Salah tested the polish keeper again from distance, as the Reds continued to fire across the visitors’ bow.
It took 23 minutes for the Reds to ultimately break the deadlock, but it came through man-in-form Mane, who captured a goal in his fourth consecutive Premier League game. In what has become a calling card of sort, the goal came in the second phase following a clearance from a corner. Keita recycled the ball to James Milner on the right flank — with the Cherries line still pushing out, Milner whipped in an inch-perfect cross for Mane to head low past Boruc for the opener.
Salah had a gilt-edged opportunity to double the lead just a few minutes later after a beautiful break from Firmino and Mané found Wijnaldum and Salah two-v-one on the edge of the box. The Dutchman’s square pass took a bit of a hop and was just enough to throw off Salah, who scuffed his attempt at a wide open net.
Joel Matip picked out Firmino with a stunning ball from his own half on 32 minutes, but the Brazilian’s chest control wasn’t quite enough to keep Boruc from coming out to smother.
It was only a matter of time before the Reds would get their insurance marker, and it came through an unexpected source on 34 minutes. Keita pressed well to turn the ball over in the Bournemouth half, with Andrew Robertson picking up the pieces. He clipped a ball into the path of the onrushing Wijnaldum, who took the ball down before deftly chipping the ball over Boruc for Liverpool’s second.
The Reds seemed to be in cruise control heading into the break, but not before Salah brought a stunning save from Boruc off an acrobatic volley from the edge of the box. Wijnaldum then tried his luck with a rasping left-footed effort from distance. but Boruc was again on hand to keep the deficit at two heading into the interval.
No let off in the second
The Reds refused to take their foot off the gas, and it took just under three minutes for them to add to their lead.
Keita curled a beautiful through ball into the path of Firmino, who wound up to shoot before rolling his foot over top of the ball and leaving it for the underlapping run of Salah. The Egyptian still had plenty to do under pressure, but he slotted cooly into the far corner of the net to make it 3-0.
Mané nearly added to his tally following another beautiful, sweeping move from the Reds, but he headed wide across the face of goal from a floated Wijnaldum cross.
Eddie Howe made his first change of the evening on 58 minutes, bringing on January signing and former Red Dominic Solanke in place of fellow Reds alum Jordon Ibe.
Liverpool opted to slow the tempo a bit as the hour mark drew near, taking the sting out of the game and reverting to more sustained possession.
Lys Mousset came on for Jefferson Lerma on 72 minutes and immediately brought some life to the game, firing just wide from distance with his first action.
Salah nearly bagged his brace a few minutes later, getting on the end of a sublime one-two with Firmino before firing off the crossbar with Boruc clean beaten.
There was a massive ovation around Anfield on 77 minutes as Trent Alexander-Arnold made his return from injury, coming on to replace man-of-the-match contender Wijnaldum with Milner shifting to midfield.
Mousset tested Alisson again, this time forcing a save with a powerful shot from a sharp angle.
At the other end, Keita came agonizingly close to opening his Liverpool account, skying a golden opportunity from the edge of the six-yard box after Firmino had his shot blocked.
Howe made his final change of the afternoon on 80 minutes, bringing on another January signing in Chris Mepham to replace Diego Rico.
On 86 minutes, Firmino found himself in 2-on-0 with van Dijk following a break from a Bournemouth corner. The Brazilian opted to shoot, with Boruc down to his right to stop a less-than-convincing effort.
Mané made way for Divock Origi on 87 minutes to the tune of rapturous applause from Anfield.
The Belgian nearly got on the end of an early ball from Salah shortly after coming on before Alexander-Arnold drew a strong save from Boruc from a tight angle.
Klopp’s final change of the night saw Daniel Sturridge replace Firmino at the tail end of regulation as Liverpool looked to see out the result.
Solanke nearly spoiled the clean sheet for his former side shortly into stoppage time, firing a rasping effort just wide of Alisson’s post from the right edge of the box.
The full-time whistle came shortly thereafter, with the Reds jumping back atop the Premier League table on 65 points
Alisson, Robertson, van Dijk, Matip, Milner, Keita, Fabinho Wijnaldum (Alexander-Arnold 7, Mané (Origi 87′), Firmino (Sturridge 90′), Salah
Subs:Mignolet, Camacho, Henderson, Lallana
Boruc, Rico (Mepham 80′), Ake, Cook, Smith, Lerma (Mousset 72′), Fraser, Surman, Gosling, Ibe (Solanke 58′), King
Subs: Begovic, Simpson, Taylor. Surridge