For all the attacking prowess Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool possess, there’s a vast contrast in terms of their defensive qualities. Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge guided Liverpool to the fifth round of the FA Cup, in a match that revolved around Rodgers’ men providing a threat on the counter, opposed to dominating possession.
After Liverpool’s 2-2 slip-up against Aston Villa at Anfield, the Reds were expected to alter their formation to provide adequate protection ahead of the back four. But with Rodgers persistent on keeping Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge upfront, Liverpool continued to play with a two central midfielders.
Liverpool struggled to sustain possession for large portions of the match, and Bournemouth created several half-chances. Marc Pugh and Charlie Daniels surged forward at every opportunity, dominating the left flank, while creating openings behind Martin Kelly, but the home side lacked quality in the final third. Meanwhile, Bournemouth posed a threat in wide areas, as Liverpool’s issue defending set-pieces, and balls from the flank, troubled Rodgers’ backline.
Rodgers’ decision to play Steven Gerrard as a deep-lying midfielder last week was bold, and the Reds nearly lost the match in the first half. Here, without the injured Lucas Leiva, Henderson and Gerrard were paired in midfield again – and despite both men completing over 90% of their passes, they were a liability on the counter attack. Bournemouth consistently bypassed Liverpool’s midfield on several occasions, but the home side failed to convert chances around the 18-yard box.
The games most important player was Luis Suarez – the Uruguayan striker ran the channels, admirably tracked back to complete defensive duties, and he displayed his ability to play as a competent no.10. His cross-field pass on the break led to Moses’ near-post opener, and he received the ball behind the Bournemouth midfield and slid an incisive pass into Sturridge, who expertly doubled Liverpool’s lead.
The score-line doesn’t reflect the fact that Liverpool found it considerably easy at Goldsands Stadium, but once again their defensive issues were exposed. Suarez and Sturridge will torment back lines around the country, but an unreliable backline and Gerrard’s inability to consistently break up play in midfield can impede Liverpool’s top-four aspirations.