Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0
Christian Benteke scored a disputed winner on his home debut as Liverpool claimed a controversial 1-0 win over promoted Bournemouth in the Premier League.
The £32million summer signing from Aston Villa struck from close range after 26 minutes at Anfield but debate raged over whether Philippe Coutinho was offside.
This came after the Cherries had earlier had a Tommy Elphick goal harshly ruled ruled for a push in the area by referee Craig Pawson.
Bournemouth pressed hard in the second half, hitting the post through Matt Ritchie, but Liverpool did enough to close out a second successive win.
Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City all have a 100% win rate and have each kept clean sheets in both of their games. pic.twitter.com/UQ0GKONX4D— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2015
Brendan Rodgers, watched by Liverpool owner John W Henry, fielded a side unchanged from the laboured opening victory at Stoke.
They started in much the same sluggish manner as the visitors made the early running. Max Gradel looked dangerous on the left, Andrew Surman and Eunan O’Kane provided drive and strikers Callum Wilson and Josh King were threatening.
The first moment of contention came in the fifth minute as Elphick was penalised for fouling Dejan Lovren as he manoeuvred into space to head home from a corner.
It was a tough call but Bournemouth were not disheartened and continued to force the pace.
Terrific start by Bournemouth, who but for a lousy decision would be one up.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 17, 2015
Gradel almost broke clear but was cut off by a superb tackle from Nathaniel Clyne.
It was the 24th minute before Liverpool finally posed a serious threat with Benteke driving narrowly over from distance.
The questionable goal moments later as Jordan Henderson swung in a deep cross from the left.
Coutinho was offside and clearly played at the ball as it bounced past him on the way to Benteke, who turned home at the far post.
Happy for #Benteke ....changing the angle from the corner always catches a few defending off guard. New ruling...that's offside though?!?— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) August 17, 2015
The goal, Benteke’s 50th in English club football, sparked strong debate over the latest interpretation of the offside rule. Coutinho did not have to make contact to be flagged, as he would have done in previous seasons, but his action had to impact on an opponent. There were no Bournemouth players near him as he moved for the ball, but goalkeeper Artur Boruc may have anticipated a touch.
Again it was harsh on the visitors and they lost momentum after the setback.
Liverpool upped their tempo and Henderson clipped the top of the bar with a long-range shot and Coutinho fired just wide. Coutinho saw another effort deflected just off target early in the second half.
Bournemouth responded after Henderson, presumably injured, was taken off after 52 minutes.
Matt Ritchie grew in influence on the right, smashing a shot against the woodwork, having another chance blocked by Joe Gomez and then seeing an effort deflected for a corner. Wilson teed up an opportunity for O’Kane but he hit the side-netting from a tight angle.
Matchwinner Christian Benteke. Won 10 of 16 aerial duels, covered 9.31km, had 43 touches, 50th goal in English career pic.twitter.com/lw6Gwztpqn— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 17, 2015
Liverpool did enough to hold on and Benteke almost snatched a second in the closing moments when a deflected shot struck the bar.
After recovering from the blow of Benteke’s goal, Bournemouth fought hard in the second half and Ritchie was a constant danger. He came in from the right and troubled the Liverpool defence with his runs. He was unlucky to hit the post and might have enjoyed better reward on a different night.
Moment of the Match
The moment that will attract the headlines was the Benteke goal. There was plenty to debate but the consensus – among the neutrals at least – was that the officials got it wrong. Still, Benteke may not care too much. His Liverpool account is now in credit.
View from the Bench
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth have a reputation for good football and they showed why in spells, and there can be no question about their effort and commitment. Howe will take plenty of encouragement from a positive display at one of the Premier League’s great arenas.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers may consider he got lucky with two refereeing decisions, but he will take that given the pressure he is under to deliver this season. His new-look side needs time to gel and it will help if they pick up points as that process takes place.
Moan of the Match
The latest interpretation of the offside rule gives referees and their assistants even more to think about and, as proved, trying to compute everything in the few seconds they have to make a decision is very difficult. Coutinho played at the ball and it was close to him. To most watching, that made it clear he was offside. But the rule also requires it to be determined that the actions impacted an opponent and that is where the grey area lies. Without use of replays, that is a very tough call to make.
Who’s up Next
Arsenal v Liverpool (Premier League – Monday, August 24)
West Ham v Bournemouth (Premier League, Saturday, August 22)
Simon Mignolet: 6 (out of 10)
Nathaniel Clyne: 8
Martin Skrtel: 7
Dejan Lovren: 5
Joe Gomez: 7
Jordan Henderson: 7
James Milner: 7
Jordon Ibe: 6
Philippe Coutinho: 7
Adam Lallana: 6
Christian Benteke: 7
Emre Can: 6
Roberto Firmino: 6
Alberto Moreno: 5
Artur Boruc: 6
Simon Francis: 7
Steve Cook: 8
Tommy Elphick: 7
Charlie Daniels: 7
Matt Ritchie: 8
Eunan O’Kane: 7
Andrew Surman: 7
Max Gradel: 8
Callum Wilson: 7
Joshua King: 7
Lee Tomlin: 6
Adam Smith: 5
Dan Gosling: 5