Benteke scores on Anfield debut
Christian Benteke scored a disputed winner on his home debut as Liverpool claimed a controversial 1-0 win over promoted Bournemouth in the Barclays Premier League.
The £32million summer signing from Aston Villa struck from close range after 26 minutes at Anfield but debate raged over whether Philippe Coutinho was offside.
This came after the Cherries had earlier had a Tommy Elphick goal harshly ruled ruled for a push in the area by referee Craig Pawson.
Bournemouth pressed hard in the second half, hitting the post through Matt Ritchie, but Liverpool did enough to close out a second successive win.
Brendan Rodgers, watched by Liverpool owner John W Henry, fielded a side unchanged from the laboured opening victory at Stoke.
They started in much the same sluggish manner as the visitors made the early running. Max Gradel looked dangerous on the left, Andrew Surman and Eunan O'Kane provided drive and strikers Callum Wilson and Josh King were threatening.
The first moment of contention came in the fifth minute as Elphick was penalised for fouling Dejan Lovren as he manoeuvred into space to head home from a corner.
It was a tough call but Bournemouth were not disheartened and continued to force the pace.
Gradel almost broke clear but was cut off by a superb tackle from Nathaniel Clyne.
It was the 24th minute before Liverpool finally posed a serious threat with Benteke driving narrowly over from distance.
The questionable goal moments later as Jordan Henderson swung in a deep cross from the left.
Coutinho was offside and clearly played at the ball as it bounced past him on the way to Benteke, who turned home at the far post.
The goal, Benteke's 50th in English club football, sparked strong debate over the latest interpretation of the offside rule. Coutinho did not have to make contact to be flagged, as he would have done in previous seasons, but his action had to impact on an opponent. There were no Bournemouth players near him as he moved for the ball, but goalkeeper Artur Boruc may have anticipated a touch.
Again it was harsh on the visitors and they lost momentum after the setback.
Liverpool upped their tempo and Henderson clipped the top of the bar with a long-range shot and Coutinho fired just wide. Coutinho saw another effort deflected just off target early in the second half.
Bournemouth responded after Henderson, presumably injured, was taken off after 52 minutes.
Matt Ritchie grew in influence on the right, smashing a shot against the woodwork, having another chance blocked by Joe Gomez and then seeing an effort deflected for a corner. Wilson teed up an opportunity for O'Kane but he hit the side-netting from a tight angle.
Liverpool did enough to hold on and Benteke almost snatched a second in the closing moments when a deflected shot struck the bar.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
John Hartson @JohnHartson10: "Liverpool now getting a firm grip on the game.. Benteke goal yes offside but he will be a great signing.."
Simon Mignolet: 6 (out of 10)
Nathaniel Clyne: 8
Martin Skrtel: 7
Dejan Lovren: 5
Joe Gomez: 7
Jordan Henderson: 7
James Milner: 7
Jordon Ibe: 6
Philippe Coutinho: 7
Adam Lallana: 6
Christian Benteke: 7
Emre Can: 6
Roberto Firmino: 6
Alberto Moreno: 5
Artur Boruc: 6
Simon Francis: 7
Steve Cook: 8
Tommy Elphick: 7
Charlie Daniels: 7
Matt Ritchie: 8
Eunan O'Kane: 7
Andrew Surman: 7
Max Gradel: 8
Callum Wilson: 7
Joshua King: 7
Lee Tomlin: 6
Adam Smith: 5
Dan Gosling: 5
After recovering from the blow of Benteke's goal, Bournemouth fought hard in the second half and Ritchie was a constant danger. He came in from the right and troubled the Liverpool defence with his runs. He was unlucky to hit the post and might have enjoyed better reward on a different night.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The moment that will attract the headlines was the Benteke goal. There was plenty to debate but the consensus - among the neutrals at least - was that the officials got it wrong. Still, Benteke may not care too much. His Liverpool account is now in credit.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Eddie Howe's Bournemouth have a reputation for good football and they showed why in spells, and there can be no question about their effort and commitment. Howe will take plenty of encouragement from a positive display at one of the Premier League's great arenas. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers may consider he got lucky with two refereeing decisions, but he will take that given the pressure he is under to deliver this season. His new-look side needs time to gel and it will help if they pick up points as that process takes place.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
The latest interpretation of the offside rule gives referees and their assistants even more to think about and, as proved, trying to compute everything in the few seconds they have to make a decision is very difficult. Coutinho played at the ball and it was close to him. To most watching, that made it clear he was offside. But the rule also requires it to be determined that the actions impacted an opponent and that is where the grey area lies. Without use of replays, that is a very tough call to make.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Arsenal v Liverpool (Premier League - Monday, August 24)
West Ham v Bournemouth (Premier League, Saturday, August 22)
Benteke was delighted to get off the mark in front of the Kop on his home debut.
"I think it's a great debut for myself and the team but the main point tonight is the three points," he said on Sky Sports 1.
"In my mind I just said 'keep going and you might be able to get to the ball'. I made the right decision and I'm happy."
However, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe predictably saw things differently.
"It's a clear offside and for that to be missed, with this new rule, it does leave a bit of a bitter taste," he said. "I would like to speak to the officials and get their views on the two main incidents in the game."
Howe was also frustrated by Elphick's disallowed goal.
"For me it's a goal. It's a great ball in, a great header. He's competing, wrestling, but if that's a free-kick we're going to see free-kicks every time there's a corner in my opinion," he said.
However, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was not interested in the debate.
"One, I haven't see the replay yet, and two, it's a goal," he said. "It's very difficult, the interpretation changes every year, but the most important thing is it was a goal and we won 1-0. That's all that concerns me.
"I'm very pleased for the players. Six points, two clean sheets, defensively we're working well and the team will grow with their performances."