Jurgen Klopp may have fielded a heavily altered Liverpool line-up in the 2-1 win at Bournemouth, but there was no change in the desire to get the job done.
As the German has repeatedly stated and sought to effect at the club, names on the teamsheet are secondary to the collective.
He selected 10 different starters at Dean Court on Sunday afternoon from the 11 who contributed to the unimagined 4-3 Europa League quarter-final victory over Borussia Dortmund, but Liverpool still departed with maximum points.
Only Roberto Firmino, who opened the scoring against Eddie Howe’s men, ran out from the off in both games. The combined average age of the starters was 24, with Danny Ward making his Liverpool bow, and both Brad Smith and Connor Randall securing their first league starts.
The bulk of the XI was made up of academy players, with six getting the opportunity to build on their experience and make an impact on the backroom team.
As was the case in the 4-1 hammering of Stoke at Anfield a week ago, players needing to deliver big performances did exactly that. Daniel Sturridge, who had to settle for a spot on the bench for both legs against Dortmund as Liverpool progressed to the semi-finals with a 5-4 aggregate, was majestic against the Cherries. His brilliant backheel in the build-up to Firmino’s opener was followed by a robust header into the bottom corner for the Reds’ second.
Two further phenomenal efforts were denied by the woodwork and he could have headed back to Merseyside with a hat-trick and the match ball.
Jordon Ibe, making his first league start since the 5-4 win over Norwich on January 23, was involved in both goals. The 20-year-old, has found his chances severely limited since then, but turned in an incisive performance. He set-up both goals and created five chances – the most of any player in the game. He also topped the table for attempted and completed take-ons, and was unmatched in attacking third passes.
Klopp said post-match: “I heard he had some problems with me—absolutely not. He’s still a brilliant, big, big talent. He did well today.”
Joe Allen, who admitted he is playing for his future at the club “now more than ever,” was excellent again: he made 14 ball recoveries, five more than Steve Cook and Dan Gosling who had the next best numbers. He sparked Liverpool’s forays forward and thwarted Bournemouth’s. Kevin Stewart worked well in tandem with the Welsh international, and as with the other academy graduates, gave a really good account of himself.
Ward was hugely unlucky not to have earned a clean sheet after an assured debut. His distribution was quick and expert, his claims from crosses impressive and his saves to deny Josh King and Lewis Grabban were stellar.
Liverpool, regardless of who has played, have only lost once in the past 14 games. Their second-half capitulation against Southampton at St. Mary’s has been their only blemish since the start of March in a sequence of games that has included both Manchester clubs, title-chasing Tottenham and a formidable Dortmund.
This may be a season of change for Liverpool, but it’s exactly the kind the club has been crying out for. When Klopp was unveiled, he vowed his side “will chase the ball, run more, fight more. We will work more together and better together.” They have been doing just that.