Date: 7 December 2019
The final score in this match was more or less what anyone would have previously predicted, but as so often in football there were unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Before the match, the November ‘player of the month’ award was presented to Harry Wilson. Ironically he was unavailable to play today because he’s on loan from Liverpool, but it did give the away fans the opportunity to join in the applause with enthusiasm.
Speaking of the Liverpool supporters, this was the first time I’d ever seen party political banners displayed at a match. As the teams came out, and as TV cameras focused on the away fans, they held up messages such as “Vote Labour”, “For the many not the few” and “Scousers hate Tories”.
We actually started well in the match itself – getting plenty of the play and enjoying a few scoring opportunities in the first half hour. On 20 minutes an excellent solo run down the left flank by Solanke led to a shot that was deflected by a Liverpool player into the side netting, resulting in a corner that ‘Wee man’ Fraser took. (Unfortunately, despite there being plenty of players in the box, he opted to take it ‘short’). Fraser somewhat redeemed himself for the poor corner by being very active during this period; and on one occasion passing to Danjuma, whose subsequent shot was only fractionally wide of the target.
But the turning point in the game came when Aké expertly blocked a Salah shot at the other end, injuring himself in the process and needing to be substituted. The good news, perhaps, is that he was fit enough to hobble off the pitch unaided. Simpson slotted straight in to Aké’s position, but our now makeshift central defence partnership of Mepham and Simpson were unable to defend a long ball from Henderson to Oxlade-Chamberlain, so within a minute of the substitution we were 0-1 down. On the stroke of half time this became 0-2 when Salah back-heeled to Keita following a Liverpool corner, and Keita scored.
The second half was pretty much all Liverpool, and hence an endurance test for Bournemouth fans. Simpson grew into the game and got better and better, but was nonetheless to blame for giving the ball away on 54 minutes, as a result of which Salah scored Liverpool’s third. On the hour mark, presumably as planned before kick-off and in no way relating to the situation on the pitch, Lewis Cook replaced Billing – slotting in to the right of Lerma. (We’d learned something new about Billing whilst he was on. He has a throw that’s even longer than Steve Cook’s, and arguably more accurate too: a skill definitely worth exploiting.) Later, on, Gosling replaced Callum Wilson who’d managed to pull a hamstring. I thought Gosling might go into a ‘number ten’ position but he didn’t: we simply converted our central midfield from a two to a three. We did manage, however, not to concede any more goals – and this was despite a dodgy back-pass from Lewis Cook that Ramsdale failed to collect but somehow got away with! Full time: 0-3.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (4), Mepham (5), Aké (6), Rico (4);
Danjuma (6), Lerma (7), Billing (6), Fraser (7);
C Wilson (5), Solanke (7)
Francis, Mepham, Simpson, Rico;
Danjuma, L Cook, Lerma, Gosling, Fraser;