Thursday 22 February 2018

Firmino pulls the strings as Klopp gets first victory

Liverpool's English defender Nathaniel Clyne scoring his team's first goal
Liverpool's English defender Nathaniel Clyne scoring his team's first goal

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp finally has a win to celebrate as a Liverpool manager. He is certain to enjoy more significant victories than this narrow win over Bournemouth, but everyone remembers their first time most fondly.

Nathaniel Clyne struck the only goal after 17 minutes. Yet, as has often been the way at Anfield in recent seasons, it was a performance beautifully choreographed by a South American.

This was the night Roberto Firmino arrived on Merseyside. He has rarely been seen since his expensive summer move from Hoffenheim, but he repaid the first chunk of his £29m fee with a performance that earned a standing ovation when he was substituted four minutes from the end. The Brazilian's artistry really shone through.

The League Cup and eight-times winners Liverpool have enjoyed a profitable relationship. Indeed it was the last major trophy to find its way to Anfield during the second spell of Kenny Dalglish in 2012.

After eight draws in Liverpool's last nine games, Klopp came up with a winning, but unlikely, formula here.

"My first win feels better than a draw!" he said. "I'm really satisfied because this team had never played together and the young players did really well.

"We had many chances against a side which played with nearly their first team. We were dominant, played football and got the win we deserved. It was very important to win because we decided to go with a new team. To win is always good for the feeling of the whole team."

In search of his first win, the new coach was hoping to be received like an old friend in a favourable tournament.

Klopp might have been concerned that the cup organisers would feel affronted by how many of his senior players he had left out. He insisted he was not demeaning the competition by plunging so many untried youngsters into his starting XI, but a glance at the team sheet left no doubt that the priority is Saturday's trip to Stamford Bridge.

Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana were on the bench, while Emre Can, Mamadou Sakho and Simon Mignolet were given the night off. James Milner's suspension forced his absence and the injuries to Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge kept Divock Origi hunting for goals as the sole senior striker.

This meant full debuts for Cameron Brannagan, Connor Randall and Joao Teixeira - an assortment of academy graduates.

Bournemouth were making their second trip to Anfield this season, no doubt their minds refreshed about the injustice of their last visit in August.

Then they were beaten by an 'offside' goal having had what should have been a legitimate one of their own ruled out.

That might have been firing them at the first whistle as Eddie Howe's side looked the more assured in the early stages and should have led within five minutes.

Joe Allen tripped himself up in possession in the centre circle and Bournemouth pounced, working Junior Stanislas into a one-on-one with Liverpool's deputy keeper, Adam Bogdan. The Hungarian saved with his legs.

Liverpool were looking to Firmino as their most senior attacking presence. The Brazilian was signed amid a fanfare last summer, his credentials and references impeccable. Klopp was in no mood to lessen the hype when suggesting he was the Bundesliga's best player for a part of last year.

Injury and Brendan Rodgers' uncertainty of where to play the South American had deprived Anfield a glimpse of this talent, but he started to show it here.

His strength and technique provided a much-needed outlet, and he tested Bournemouth goalkeeper Adam Federici for the first time after 15 minutes with a venomous shot from distance.

It was a taster for a virtuoso performance from the Brazilian, who was involved in the opening goal two minutes later.


It began with Origi stretching his legs down the right wing, before picking out Firmino on the edge of Bournemouth's penalty area. The Brazilian's delicate touch sent Teixeira clear and, from an awkward angle, a flamboyant backheel beat Federici and had defender Adam Smith scurrying to make a goal-line clearance.

Smith successfully prevented the cutest of goals, but could only find the advancing Clyne (pictured left celebrating), who made no mistake with the goalkeeper and defenders stranded.

In the last round Liverpool struggled to overcome League Two Carlisle and there was a notable contrast in energy levels under Klopp's guidance.

Like Firmino and several others, Jordan Ibe looked a different player from the one toiling a few weeks ago. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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