Belfast Telegraph

Dream start for Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool get lucky with Benteke's debut goal

By Steven Beacom

Six Premier League points out of six for Liverpool. Just the start Brendan Rodgers wanted - and needed - in his defining season as manager at Anfield.

Versus Stoke on the opening weekend of the campaign, it took a fabulous strike from Philippe Coutinho to win the contest.

At home to newly promoted Bournemouth last night, fortune favoured the Reds as they claimed their second 1-0 victory in succession with controversy surrounding the decisive first half goal from new signing Christian Benteke.

The truth is it should NOT have stood.

Fair play to Benteke for being alert enough to stick the ball away from close range, starting to pay back some of his £32.5 million transfer fee, but before the Belgian struck, a flag should have been raised for offside against Coutinho.

It was a split second call for the officials, but an obvious one and alarming that referee and assistant failed to spot it.

Jordan Henderson, now Liverpool captain with Steven Gerrard enjoying the sun and soccer in Los Angeles, whipped in a dangerous cross with Coutinho clearly in an offside position. The fact that the brilliant little Brazilian didn't get a touch was neither here nor there... he tried to which distracted Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc leaving Benteke to find the net in his first game as a Liverpool striker in front of the Kop.

No wonder visiting manager Eddie Howe looked on with disbelief. He was waiting for a free-kick that never came.

Twenty minutes before that Howe was standing on the touchline with the same startled expression after his team had a goal disallowed at the other end.

Again it was the wrong decision.

From a corner Tommy Elphick was too strong for Liverpool's much scrutinised defender Dejan Lovren and headed home from a few yards out, yet referee Craig Pawson whistled for a foul against the visiting player.

Seriously unlucky for Elphick who thought he had netted just five minutes into his side's first ever away match in the Premier League.

Welcome to the big time Bournemouth where big teams tend to get big decisions. That's just the way it is.

This was Anfield after all. Old Trafford will be the same. Other renowned stadiums too.

Not overawed, the Cherries will feel they should have left Merseyside with a point, but two games in they have none and a fight to avoid relegation is already on.

With players like former Coleraine favourite Eunan O'Kane though they won't lack hunger for the battle ahead. Five years ago O'Kane was playing in the Irish League. Last night he made his first Premier League start against the team he supported growing up in Londonderry. With hard work, determination, desire and ability, dreams really can come true.

Liverpool's ambition this season is a top four place in the Premier League. It's early days, but two clean sheets and two victories will inject confidence into the side and, with more fluency to come, the Reds can be in the mix this time.

Under pressure before a ball was kicked this season, Brendan Rodgers will be extremely satisfied. So far so good though the Carnlough native, knows there is still much to do.

Belfast Telegraph

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