Date: 11 March 2023
Most pundits (indeed, most of us Cherries supporters!) had predicted that we’d be dealt a good thrashing by Liverpool today. This was because they beat us 9-0 last time we met them, and they beat Manchester United 7-0 less than a week ago. How wrong could we be!
On the day itself, the omens seemed good. I had a pleasant drive down to Bournemouth (there being no trains again!) on quiet roads. At the stadium, I got my badly-printed ticket quickly swapped for a good one, by a very efficient and courteous man at the ticket office. I enjoyed a nice steak pie in the concourse and then was relieved to hear the team selection: we were only playing with two centre backs today, not three.
We lined up 4-2-3-1 with Zemura completely missing (not even on the bench); Cook and Brooks both back on the bench; and – the biggest surprise – Lloyd Kelly at left back.
The players were all up for it, showing great determination to get a result. Anthony had his hand in the air almost permanently, pleading for every ball – as is his style! Quite early on Outtara showed his pace by tearing down the right wing but leaving his shot/cross too late so the ball went into the side netting. Close, though. And a few minutes later Outtara (who’d later be named sponsors’ man of the match, and deservedly so) did exactly the same again and this time attempted a cross to Solanke. The ball went behind Solanke but Billing was on hand to make us 1-0 up on 28 minutes. The trouble was, this would be a very long time to hold on to a slender lead.
I was afraid we’d bring Mepham on as an extra centre back to shore up the defence, but we didn’t; we continued to attack. Solanke, Christie, Billing and Outtara all had scoring chances. Liverpool made one substitution at half time, and three more on the hour mark, while O’Neil remained faithful to his starting eleven. Very late on we’d bring in Fredericks for Smith (who appeared to be slightly injured anyway), Cook for Lerma, Vina for Anthony, Semenyo for Solanke and Christie for Billing; but these were all one-for-one swaps with no change of system.
The highlight of the second half, though, was Liverpool being awarded a penalty (after a VAR check) for a handball, and Salah missing by a mile as he catapulted the ball into the Ted MacDougall stand. This literally raised a bigger cheer than our goal had! The result moves us two places up the Premier League table, and we’re now equal on points with West Ham and Leicester above us, so the season is redeemable. Everyone was singing “were staying up” at the end, but whether today will prove – with hindsight – to be a turning point in our season, remains to be seen.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Stephens, Senesi, Kelly;
Ouattara, Billing, Anthony;