Christian Benteke opened his Liverpool account in contentious circumstances to get the better of Bournemouth and give Liverpool their second straight 1-0 win to begin the new Premier League season. A year on from taking until October to get back-to-back victories, it has been a more promising start for Brendan Rodgers’ side this time around. Yet in the first ever league meeting between the two clubs, Liverpool required the benefit of one dubious decision and one clearly errant one in order to prevail against the newly promoted club at Anfield.
A Bournemouth side that begun brightly as they again sought their first ever points in England’s top flight were unlucky not to go in front after just five minutes when defender Tommy Elphick was somewhat harshly adjudged to have fouled Dejan Lovren before heading into the net. And just over 20 minutes later they were even more unfortunate. Benteke converted Jordan Henderson’s cross, but only after an offside Philippe Coutinho had made a clear move toward the ball. Under the new interpretation of the offside law, the goal patently should not have stood.
Rodgers can point toward the fact that his team created the better of the limited chances that arrived in a contest which simmered without ever truly boiling into life. The fact that the club’s £32.5 million signing took one of them to get off the mark in just his second game for the club and immediately won the support of his new home fans could also prove to be a significant moment. At the other end a second clean sheet will be particularly pleasing after the unconvincing defensive performances his team put in through much of last season.
But plenty of work remains for Liverpool, while for Bournemouth this was another harsh defeat following on from a 1-0 reversal against Aston Villa on the opening weekend. While there were again some positive moments from Eddie Howe’s men the reality is that they will quickly have to find a more ruthless cutting edge to get their season up and running.
The evening has started full of promise for the visitors. The Anfield crowd was in good voice ahead of the club’s first home game of the new season, but once the whistle blew they were silenced in the early going by the visitors gaining the ascendency. The pace of last season’s top scorer Callum Wilson and summer signing Max Gradel getting in behind down the flanks was causing their illustrious opponents problems. And the visitors soon had just cause to think that they should have taken the lead.
From a corner sent in from the right, Elphick rose in the middle of the box to head down and into the net. In getting above Lovren he certainly had his hands on the Liverpool defender’s shoulders, but the contact appeared far too soft to seriously impede a man of Lovren’s stature to the extent his reaction suggested.
Things were only to get more frustrating for Bournemouth from there. After the first 12 minutes, Liverpool began to find their feet in the game as they found space to play through Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner in midfield, while also making plenty of use of the direct ball toward Benteke.
It was the new big-money signing who, just two minutes after slicing a powerful shot wide from 25 yards, broke the deadlock. When Henderson received the ball back after taking a short corner, the Liverpool captain delivered a delightful first-time in-swinging cross that immediately threatened danger. But it was also obvious that Coutinho was in an offside position in the middle of the area, and, having made a very deliberate movement to try and divert the ball goalward himself, the offside flag should have gone up before Benteke arrived around the back.
Having gone in front, Liverpool could have extended their lead before the interval. Soon after delivering the assist, Henderson skimmed the top of the crossbar with a fine first-time curling effort from just outside the area. The big chance, though, fell the way of Coutinho. Fresh from his blistering strike to beat Stoke City last week, the Brazilian, this time on his left foot, was far less decisive when placing a shot wide of the post having been gifted the ball in the box from an errant interception.
Shortly into the second half, Liverpool had another promising sight of goal that Milner was unable to convert. But, perhaps helped by Liverpool losing Henderson to an apparent injury, Bournemouth found an unexpected second wind and provided plenty of uncomfortable moments for the 18-time English champions as the second period wore on.
There was so nearly a stunning equalizer when the south coast club’s chief creative threat Matt Ritchie provided a glimpse of his technical quality with a perfectly struck first-time shot from the edge of the box that clattered off the outside of the post. But that was to be as close as Bournemouth came to threatening Simon Mignolet’s goal. And the sense that Liverpool had the greater ability to create chances was again reinforced late on when Benteke was set up for a clear sight of goal. Although he was denied by the crossbar, it was a day when fortune shined on both him and his new club.