Liverpool 2-1 Bournemouth
- Goals: Mohamed Salah (£12.8m), Sadio Mané (£12.4m)| Callum Wilson (£7.4m)
- Assists: Mané, Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m) | Jefferson Lerma (£4.8m)
- Bonus Points: Mané x3, Salah x2, van Dijk x1
Normal service was resumed on Merseyside as Liverpool edged ever closer to the Premier League title with a tighter-than-it-should-have-been win over Bournemouth.
After defeats in the league, the FA Cup and Europe, Jurgen Klopp’s side had lost their unbeatable swagger, and a spirited first-half performance from the Cherries prompted a sense of unease around Anfield on more than one occasion.
The home crowd reached peak nervousness early on when Callum Wilson (£7.4m) opened the scoring for the visitors, from a Jefferson Lerma (£4.8m) assist, although the goal had more than a whiff of controversy about it.
For those of a particularly anti-Reds bent, the term ‘LiVARpool’ has been trotted out every time they’ve felt the powers that be at Stockley Park have favoured the league leaders this season, but there was no such generosity on offer with the Wilson strike.
The Bournemouth striker seemed to have given Joe Gomez (£5.3m) a decent shove in the back in the build-up to the goal, but VAR decided not to overturn referee Paul Tierney’s decision to wave play on and the goal stood.
The Cherries came close to doubling the lead when a Nathan Aké (£4.8m) header from a corner forced Adrian (£4.0m) into a save that was effective, if unconvincing.
But when Jack Simpson (£4.0m) came on for Steve Cook (£5.0m), who looked to have suffered a hamstring injury, things started to unravel for Eddie Howe’s men.
Aaron Ramsdale (£4.6m) had already made a smart save from Roberto Firmino (£9.6m) before Simpson gifted Sadio Mané (£12.4m) the ball in the final third. The midfielder’s pass to Mohamed Salah (£12.8m) was a poor one, but the Egyptian kept his composure and found the bottom corner with a canny strike.
Some 111,721 Fantasy managers had sold Salah heading into Gameweek 29, while a much more modest 15,689 had offloaded Mané. That the pair punished that lack of faith was not exactly a big surprise, and Mané wasn’t finished either.
The Senegal international’s ownership had peaked at three million-plus before a Gameweek 24 injury meant he missed two league matches, and he is now in just over half that number of teams.
Those who have stuck by him were rewarded with a third goal in four matches since his return in Gameweek 26, and it was an alarmingly simple strike at that.
Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m) won possession on the halfway line, his pass forward split open the Bournemouth defence and Mané steered the ball past Ramsdale with the minimum amount of fuss.
On the balance of play, it was harsh on Bournemouth. They looked dangerous on the break throughout the first half as a Liverpool defence missing both Alisson (£6.2m) and Andrew Robertson (£7.0m), who Klopp described as “something between rested and injured”, struggled for solidity.
The Liverpool boss added that his left-back should be fine for Wednesday’s Champions League game with Atletico Madrid, but that will be cold comfort for his 20.6% ownership in FPL, even if the Reds did fail to keep a clean sheet for the third straight Gameweek to offset the pain of his absence.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) also blanking, it was left to van Dijk to deliver a decent return among the back four, with a single bonus point award helping him to a fourth six-point tally from his last six starts.
After the break, Liverpool slowly took control of the match and Mané was unfortunate not to score again when his superb first-time shot hit the post.
Firmino, meanwhile, failed to end his current barren streak in front of goal when he blazed over inside the area having been set up by Salah. The Brazilian has not found the net for six Gameweeks now and, incredibly, hasn’t scored at home all season.
At the other end, Ryan Fraser‘s (£6.8m) even longer search for a goal – he hasn’t scored in the league since Gameweek 5 – came tantalisingly close to ending, only for his effort to be hooked off the line by James Milner (£5.3m) with Adrian beaten.
The stats – Liverpool had 14 attempts, with six on target, to Bournemouth’s six and three – suggested an equaliser would have flattered the Cherries, and Liverpool were good enough, just about, for their win.
But even if they are far from the all-conquering force of the pre-winter break, their immediate schedule remains attractive and, crucially, includes a Gameweek 31 fixture.
As a result, holding onto their key assets, or bringing them in on a Blank Gameweek 31 Free Hit, looks decidedly sensible business, especially if Mané and Salah continue their recent form.
Klopp’s later verdict on the injury issues surrounding Robertson and Jordan Henderson (£5.4m) is another positive for Fantasy managers.
“Robbo should not be a problem; he only missed today pretty much. He finished the session yesterday and afterwards felt something, but it was then nothing in the end. Hendo was out, I don’t know exactly in this moment, but I think he will train tomorrow. If that looks good, I have to make a decision.” – Jurgen Klopp
The case for Bournemouth purchases is not nearly so clear-cut.
They too have a Blank Gameweek 31 fixture, but that’s away at Wolves, and they have a brutal four-match run to come not long after that.
Howe accented the positive in his post-match analysis.
“”We gave it a go. We started really well and looked a threat on the counter-attack.” – Eddie Howe
But his side have neither form nor fixtures to recommend Fantasy investment.
The manager also provided injury updates on both Cook and Philip Billing (£5.0m), who played the final few minutes as a virtual passenger following a knock.
“I don’t know with Steve Cook, it does look like a hamstring pull that will rule him out for a number of weeks. Philip took a whack to his back, I hope that’s just a knock rather than being anything more sinister.” – Eddie Howe
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Milner, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lallana 84′); Firmino (Origi 90+2′), Mané, Salah.
Bournemouth XI (4-3-3): Ramsdale; Smith, S Cook (Simpson 19′), Aké, Stacey; Lerma (Gosling 80′), L Cook, Billing, Fraser, Stanislas (Solanke 68′); C Wilson.
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