Firmino is a centre forward who can be outstanding without scoring and this was one of those afternoons. And this was the moment was when his all-round understanding and anticipation of his team-mates came close to telepathy
The move to play in the Brazilian had also been a thing of beauty, Sadio Mane finding Naby Keita whose long range pass was perfectly weighted. And that in itself was an improvement on recent games. This was Jürgen Klopp hitting all the right notes of his heavy metal football: controlled yet rapid changes of tempo to dislocate the opposition.
Firmino might have taken the shot himself, though the angle was narrowing as Nathan Ake pushed him ever wider. But he sensed something behind him. Or he just knew that Mohamed Salah would be sprinting to join the attack.
And so, selflessly and instinctively, and whilst running at speed with no chance to check, he back heeled the ball and it fell directly into Salah’s path. Bournemouth had already been on the back foot now but the angles of attack had changed in an instant and they were completely discombobulated. And they had the Egyptian bearing down on goal, with a free hit. The conclusion was inevitable
‘I don’t think you find a lot of players who do what Bobby is doing in that moment,’ said Jurgen Klopp. ‘Most of them try to shoot and get blocked and he is doing that little pass ….’ At this point Klopp just chucked at the audacity of it. ‘That little, little pass,’ he continued, with his enormous grin. ‘And then Mo is obviously a pretty cool finisher.’
We were but two minutes into the second half and Bournemouth could headed home at that point. Any-half time reorganisation, any motivational words from Eddie Howe were lost in the ether at that moment. Three-nil down to a rejuvenated Liverpool, the contest was as good as over.
Salah, as Klopp said, was ‘pretty much un-defendable’ and ‘outstanding.’ Yet it was more than that. This was the response that Liverpool’s fans had yearned for after two draws, one shaky win, one narrow one and a defeat in the last five games.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Liverpool (4-3-3); Allison 6; Milner 7, Matip 6, van Dijk 7, Roberton 7.5; Wijnaldum 7 (Alexander-Arnold 6.5, 76), Fabinho 6.5, Keita 7; Salah 8, Firmino 8 (Sturridge 90) Mane 7.5 (Origi 87)
Subs not used: Mignolet, Henderson, Lallana, Camacho
Goals: Mane 24, Wijnaldum 34, Salah 48
Booked: Matip, Robertson
Bournemouth (4-3-3): Boruc 7.5; Smith 6.5, Cook 6, Ake 5.5, Rico 5.5 (Mepham 6, 80); Gosling 5.5, Surman 6, Lerma 5.5 (Mousset 72, 7); Ibe 5 (Solanke 59, 6), King 5.5, Fraser 5.5
Subs not used: Begovic, Simpson, Taylor, Surridge
Booked: Smith, Rico
Ref: Anthony Taylor 5.5
Jefferson Lerma had cleared the initial corner on 23 minutes, but the manner in which Naby Keita was able to set up James Milner to set up another cross was alarming. And Dan Gosling, who was tracking Mané, had his head in his hands when he connected with Milner’s cross and headed home.
On 34 minutes, it was Jordon Ibe, a former Liverpool player, at fault, losing possession whilst attempting to attack. Andy Robertson gained possession and chipped in a delightful pass into the penalty area and weighted to meet the run of Georgina Wijnaldum. His lob cleared the head of Artur Boruc and dipped under the bar for 2-0. Boruc has to be at his best to deny Salah on 44 minutes, the Egyptian’s flick and volley requiring a save of equal skill.
Yet it would be no avail. Liverpool would end any thoughts of resistance with that lovely moment two minutes in the second half. Thereafter, Bournemouth recovered to prevent humiliation. They stuck to their task. They even managed some strikes at goal, substitute Lys Mousset going close on 78 minutes.
But in reality, a delightful Firmino-Salah link up which saw the Egyptian hit the bar deserved a fourth. And, late on. Firmino and Alexander-Arnold squandered chances which Boruc saved. Those will only matter if goal difference becomes an issue. For now the points were safe. The nerves were settled.