Liverpool’s stuttering season took another bump in the road on their travels as they were beaten by Bournemouth.
Hopes were high having thrashed Manchester United 7-0 just last weekend.
But this time they couldn’t even manage a single goal against a team fighting relegation at the bottom of the Premier League.
Gary O’Neil’s team were full value for the win and seized a crucial three points in their quest to beat the drop.
For Liverpool, however, they lost major ground on the fight for fourth place, as Spurs and Newcastle both won.
It will be seen as a huge opportunity missed, because the Reds won’t be in action in the league till April, due to the FA Cup weekend and international break, with challenging fixtures against Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal, awaiting them.
Van Dijk and Ouattara go close
Oh, how things could have been so different for Liverpool.
Inside the opening five minutes, defender Virgil van Dijk connected well with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner, but Jefferson Lerma cleared the effort superbly off the line.
Sometimes we see the best of Alexander-Arnold in attack, but in defence he has been a little suspect at times this season.
And this was again the case, as he gave the ball away to Dominic Solanke on the half-way line.
The former Liverpool man held the ball up brilliantly, before playing in Dango Ouattara but the Burkinese could only drag his shot wide, after rounding Alisson.
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Another chance came for the visitors, as van Dijk clipped a long-ball through to fellow defender, Andy Robertson, but he could only fire straight at Neto.
There was in fact a goal for Liverpool…but it was well offside, as Harvey Elliott curled the ball into the box, Darwin Núñez headed onto Cody Gakpo, and the Dutchman slammed in.
But the home side had stopped well before the ball went in, knowing Gakpo and Mohamed Salah were both in offside positions.
No goal for the Reds.
Billing strikes again
The Cherries then beat Liverpool at their own game, as they hit them on the counter attack.
Adam Smith booted the ball forward to Ouattara, who was just onside, as he held off van Dijk, before crossing for Philip Billing, for an easy swing of the boot and past Alisson for 1-0.
Having opened the scoring last weekend against Arsenal inside just nine seconds, Billing had struck again.
They lost that game 3-2 to the league leaders in the final minute of 90 minutes plus seven of injury time.
Yet here, Liverpool didn’t even look like threatening a comeback.
Glaring misses from van Dijk and Salah
Another golden opportunity came for Jurgen Klopp’s side to score as Robertson cleverly worked a free-kick from the far right hand side on his left foot, but van Dijk could only head wide.
The Dutchman certainly didn’t look happy afterwards, knowing he missed a good chance to equalise.
Diogo Jota then hustled Solanke, dispossessing him but the Portugal striker’s curling effort was palmed away by Neto.
This was then the pivotal point in the match, where Liverpool arguably should have capitalised.
Skipper Jordan Henderson passed to Salah out wide, then onto James Milner, and Jota’s header hit the hand of Smith.
That was the argument from the Liverpool players.
Tony Harrington consulted the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and eventually, the visiting team were awarded a penalty kick.
Amazingly it was the first they’ve been given all season, and it took 26 matches to do so.
But Salah, on a high after breaking the club’s all time Premier League goalscoring record last time out against Man United, fired wide much to disappointment of his boss and his teammates.
There would be one final chance in stoppage time, as Alisson hoofed the ball up to Gakpo, but he could only slam well over the bar.
It pretty much summed up Liverpool’s day at front of goal, as Bournemouth got sweet revenge for the 9-0 pummelling earlier in the season.
The result lifts Bournemouth off the bottom of the Premiership and up to 17th.
Meanwhile, Liverpool missed the chance to go fourth for the first time this season, and are now six points off Spurs, albeit with a game in hand, whilst Newcastle are two points further up.
Klopp refuses to blame Salah for penalty miss
The German, looking downcast after the match, gave the press his thoughts.
“What can I say? It was never really our game. We played for 95 minutes the game Bournemouth wanted to play.
“We didn’t enjoy the challenge of facing a deep and compact side, played balls at the wrong moment and didn’t defend well,” he said.
“The Bournemouth boys fought with passion, won these balls and showed their quality.
“Then we missed the penalty, and after that we were in a rush.”
“It’s completely hypothetical but if we scored it, the game could have turned. It doesn’t make the performance better but could have changed the result at least.
Having played so well against United last week, the boss seemed able to forgive his star player for his surprising miss.
“He scores a lot of goals but he missed a penalty, that’s life.”
The away day blues continued with a string of defeats on the road and Klopp agreed it wasn’t good enough.
“In the home games we are in the top four, but away we’re not even in Europe.
“There is always a reason for the situation you are in, and for sure our away record is one of them.”
Where do Klopp and Liverpool go from here?
Strangely enough, they have the Champions League second leg clash against Real Madrid on Wednesday, which appears to be over.
Overcoming a 5-2, three goal deficit against a serial European powerhouse looks nigh impossible.
Just as tough a task awaits them in facing teams above them in the league in the form of City and Arsenal.
It goes without saying, that they will really have to up their game and play so much better than they did here, to get anything positive out of those matches.
It will then be a scrape to get a top four finish.
They may just miss out.
But from now on, every game counts as the season reaches its climax.