Mané fires Liverpool past Bournemouth after VAR decision enrages Klopp

Bournemouth took an early lead at a nervy Anfield but after Mo Salah’s equaliser Sadio Mané put Liverpool ahead and James Milner’s goalline clearance helped secure a 2-1 win

Anger shaped Jürgen Klopp’s reaction to Sadio Mané’s winning goal against Bournemouth. Joy, laced with relief, fuelled the return of his trademark celebration after Liverpool put the one bad week in their phenomenal season behind them. Three punches in front of the Kop: one for each victory Liverpool require to guarantee their first league championship for 30 years.

Mohamed Salah marked his 100th Premier League appearance for the Anfield club with his 70th league goal before Mané brought Liverpool a new English top-flight record of 22 consecutive home league wins. Those are just the headline figures. This was a dogged fight back to winning ways after three defeats in four matches, one that began with conceding a controversial early goal to Callum Wilson, involved a spectacular goal-line clearance from James Milner and ended with a let-off from Nathan Aké in the 90th minute. Liverpool needed cool heads to get over the line rather than polished feet and Milner and Virgil van Dijk delivered with outstanding second-half displays. They were also indebted to cheap Bournemouth errors for the goals that restored invaluable confidence before Atlético Madrid’s visit in the Champions League on Wednesday.

“I am happy about the result, the three points and the performance,” said Klopp. “I knew it would be tricky. The decision of the referee around the goals made it more tricky. We wanted to fight back and after that we really had to fight back.”

Eddie Howe’s relegation-threatened team were under siege from the start as Liverpool sought to repair their recent blip. Then, from their first attack of note, the visitors were ahead. There was uproar around Anfield as Wilson escaped with a shove on Joe Gomez in the build-up. It was accompanied by the sound of 50,000-plus bums squeaking. Wilson clearly knocked Gomez off balance as they pursued a clearance into the Liverpool half. The ease with which the Liverpool defender was knocked off his stride was also apparent, so too the hosts’ failure to play to the whistle as Wilson found Philip Billing, who released Jefferson Lerma for a low cross turned in by the striker. Anfield waited for VAR to chalk off Wilson’s goal. Surprisingly the wait was in vain.

Klopp and his assistant, Pepijn Lijnders, spent the delay raging at the fourth official. These tests rarely arise when everything is clicking seamlessly into place and a 30-year wait for the title becomes a procession. But here it was. Liverpool’s defence again looked vulnerable and will need to improve against Atlético while Bournemouth’s kept its shape in the immediate aftermath of Wilson’s opener. Adrián, deputising for the injured Alisson, pushed an Aké header against the bar as the visitors almost doubled their advantage.

Aaron Ramsdale, the visiting goalkeeper, had only one shot to save in the first 24 minutes, a volley from Roberto Firmino that he blocked at close range. In the clear-up operation that followed, Steve Cook pulled his hamstring and had to be replaced by Jack Simpson. The departure of the disconsolate Bournemouth captain felt significant. Simpson’s calamitous introduction to proceedings ensured it would be. “That was the hammer blow,” said Howe of his captain’s exit.

The Bournemouth players look dejected after conceding the second.
The Bournemouth players look dejected after conceding the second. Photograph: Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

Simpson sent a routine clearance to the feet of a Liverpool player with one of his first touches. Moments later, receiving possession under no pressure deep in his own half, the 23-year-old miscontrolled and made matters worse by attempting to cut inside Mané. The Senegal striker relieved the substitute of the ball and found Salah scampering into the area. Mané misjudged his pass behind Salah but the Egypt international was able to collect, turn and squeeze his shot inside Ramsdale’s post. In the process Salah became the first Liverpool player since Michael Owen in 2002-03 to reach the 20-goal mark in three successive seasons.

Liverpool’s performance was not immediately liberated but possession was Bournemouth’s worst enemy. The visitors were caught out again when attempting to play a series of pretty passes in central midfield. Van Dijk, returning to imperious form, intercepted and sent Mané through an exposed Bournemouth defence. The striker beat Ramsdale with a confident finish and Klopp responded with a furious outburst in the direction of the assistant referee Stuart Burt. The Liverpool manager admitted: “Yes, I celebrated in that direction. I’m not happy about it but I didn’t say anything. In the moment I just don’t understand how it could be a goal. This shows the problem of VAR still exists. It was a clear foul [on Gomez]. How is it possible someone sits in a room and doesn’t see it?”

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The leaders were more controlled after the break, with Mané hitting the bar with a spectacular effort from distance, but they needed Milner to produce a superb goal-line clearance from Ryan Fraser’s lob over Adrián. In the final minute Aké found himself with only the Liverpool goalkeeper to beat but elected to pass to Wilson, who scuffed his attempt and was offside anyway. “I can’t be too critical of what we did,” said the Bournemouth manager. “But two moments in our half where we turned the ball over too easily cost us.”


Andy Hunter at Anfield

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