Date: 8 December 2018
Two facts put this match beyond Bournemouth’s reach: the fact that Liverpool had Mo Salah, and the fact that Bournemouth didn’t have Callum Wilson.
I’d previously felt a bit smug about obtaining a ticket for this match at all. Tickets for the Huddersfield and Liverpool games went on sale online at 9 AM on the same morning. I decided to buy the Liverpool one first, as it might be more popular, and I was right. By the time I was buying my Huddersfield ticket at 9:03, the Liverpool match had already sold out! And anyone waiting for the ticket office to open at 10 would have no chance at all. But by 2:30 this afternoon; as I was battling the torrential rain on my way back to Bournemouth station; having sat in a lousy seat in the Ted MacDougall stand, in row C near the corner flag; and having witnessed a 4-0 thrashing by Liverpool (the same score as a year ago); I wasn’t sure who’d had the last laugh.
Waiting for this game to start, and wondering how much I’d be able to see from this seat anyway, I studied the ‘Matchday’ programme and noted that the Bournemouth University Big Band would be entertaining us pre-match. Well that would be good! Unfortunately they never materialised, and I subsequently learned that they’d been performing outside the North Stand. Well I hadn’t come that way, so I’d have to watch them on YouTube when I got home! Meanwhile, someone behind me was counting out loud the number of empty seats around us, and gave up when he got to 30. Unlike the Huddersfield game, today those seats never were occupied. Not that the people who’d bought them and failed to turn up missed much! The afternoon started to deteriorate as soon as the teams were announced and we found out for the first time that not only was Lewis Cook injured (replaced by Surman, as expected) but Callum Wilson was out too.
Well Wilson’s an out-and-out centre forward. And so are Mousset and Defoe. So which of those would step in? Neither! Eddie showed that he has absolutely no faith in either of them by starting them both on the bench and utilising, up front, two players who’ve recently played more as midfielders (King and Fraser). Defoe, nearing the end of his career, may be happy these days to warm the bench and collect his pay cheque. But Mousset – who’s effectively been waiting for a Wilson injury to get his chance – would be well advised to seek a transfer in the January window, so that he can find a manager who’s willing to show faith in him. Because that’s obviously not Eddie Howe. Meanwhile, our lack of firepower was evident throughout this match. Indeed we’d only manage two shots on target all game.
Liverpool dominated possession from the start, while we defended deep. A shot from King went wide, and a Brooks shot was saved, but most of the play was at the other end. The fact that Salah’s first goal was offside wasn’t clear from where I was sitting, but I could see that a Firmino shot was spilled by Begovic, enabling Salah to smash the ball home. We were lucky to go in at half time only 0-1 down, largely thanks to a clean catch by Begovic from a Liverpool corner moments earlier.
But it was in the second half that our game truly fell apart. Within three minutes Steve Cook had lost the ball in midfield and Salah capitalised on the error for 0-2. Salah almost achieved his hat-trick quite quickly, when he saw a shot go over the bar, but in the event it was Steve Cook who scored Liverpool’s third – an own goal from a cross on 68 minutes – before Salah scored his final goal eight minutes after that. He toyed with Begovic, forcing him off his line; while Aké, on the goal line, failed to clear the final shot. 0-4. Now we just wanted the game over. Even the sight of Lallana playing in a blank shirt with no number on the back (is that allowed?) wasn’t enough to create any interest, and there was almost a groan from home fans when five added minutes were announced. How much more of this would we have to endure? The team had long since given up seeking a ‘consolation’ goal, and we didn’t care either. The best thing about the day was that the early kick-off meant I got home a full three hours earlier than usual, giving me time to enjoy what was left of my day.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), S Cook (4), Aké (6), Daniels (6);
Brooks (7), Lerma (5), Surman (6), Stanislas (6);
King (6), Fraser (8)
S Cook, Ake, Mings;
Francis, Lerma, Surman, Rico;
Fraser, Mousset, King.