Minnows' positive approach earns approval from Rodgers
Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 2
'Anything is possible" is AFC Bournemouth's adopted mantra, but in the face of a Liverpool side spearheaded by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge that notion might have to be revised. Youthful manager Eddie Howe has helped bring a brand of fluent, elegant, passing football to this stretch of Dorset coast – Liverpool-lite, if you like – yet their ambitions of a victory to affirm the club's dramatic renaissance were strangled at birth by opponents at maximum strength just three days before the Merseyside derby.
Brendan Rodgers could not conceal his relief after goals for Sturridge and a rejuvenated Victor Moses vindicated his bold selections, as he lavished praise upon Bournemouth players whose work ethic never relented. Forty-one today, he identifies echoes of his own vision of how the game ought to be played in Howe (36), shooting down the idea that the home team had not done enough to unsettle Liverpool.
"The courageous players are those out there on the pitch," Rodgers said. "They are a wonderful club, Bournemouth, and yet we say they are too nice. Don't say that. That's why we cry when we get to World Cups and wonder why the players aren't technically gifted enough. I watch plenty of Championship and League One games and can tell you the standard is improving."
Bournemouth never deviated from their plan to subdue Liverpool in an aesthetic, sophisticated fashion, even if this ultimately proved naive against the quicksilver instincts of Suarez, Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.
Howe made his priorities clear when he admitted: "We wanted a result, first and foremost, but after that we wanted a performance where people said: 'What a good football team.' We were not too far away. They displayed a cutting edge that we just didn't have. We have created a team here built on possession, much the same way as Brendan has done at Liverpool." That much was evident, as Bournemouth displayed every facet of the ornate passing game that has elevated them from the bottom of the third tier to the Championship middle-ground. They needed only a proven finisher, even if Lewis Grabban forced Brad Jones into a good save late on.
Otherwise, the sound of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' floating across the old Dean Court and out across bucolic King's Park did not seem too incongruous, with a tight first half suggesting that Bournemouth had the artillery to keep pace with a Premier League team brimful of self-belief.
Liverpool laboured initially for an opening, but it arrived with a move of such deftness that it left Bournemouth looking dazed. Victor Moses, largely peripheral since his arrival at Anfield, muscled in from the left to centre stage, angling his low strike beautifully beyond the reach of goalkeeper Lee Camp. There was an economy in the striker's celebrations, as Rodgers acknowledged: "He's a very laid-back kind of guy."
It had been Liverpool's first opportunity of any import, as against the home team's three, yet the gulf in quality between the strikeforces was telling. But Moses's goal disrupted their momentum, as Howe conceded: "It took at least 10 minutes for us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves."
Sometimes Bournemouth's intricate build-up work threatened to be the cause of their downfall, as when they gifted the ball straight to Jordan Henderson, who wastefully fired over. Eventually they roused themselves, but too late. One seamless move was all it required for them to conjure the decisive flourish, as Suarez sliced open the home defence with a delicious pass to Sturridge, who did not hesitate in firing low past Camp.
This was an afternoon to wonder why Sturridge could not be a shoo-in for the England team while his Uruguayan partner in crime was largely kept quiet. For once, the travelling fans had to find to an alternative object of their ardour, which they duly did with a mass rendition of "There's only one Brendan Rodgers".