Belfast Telegraph

Vital win should give Brendan Rodgers some breathing space

By Steven Beacom

Brendan Rodgers needed this. A win. Any win. That his Liverpool side played some inventive and more importantly clinical football made it even more satisfying.

After the Champions League exit and defeat to Manchester United in the past week, adding to a pretty miserable Premier League season to date, losing to Championship outfit Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup would have intensified the scrutiny on the Anfield boss.

Instead, the 3-1 victory should give the Carnlough man and his players confidence approaching Sunday's crucial clash with Arsenal and perhaps even a sense that they are at last turning a corner.

Agreed, it wasn't Barcelona they defeated, and one swallow does not make a summer, but winning at Bournemouth is no mean feat these days.

The south coast outfit are top of the Championship, the leading scorers throughout English football, had not lost since September until Liverpool rode into town and in Eddie Howe have a shrewd young manager, destined for the top flight, be that with Bournemouth or not.

The similarities between Howe and Rodgers are striking. Both had their playing careers ended early by injuries, turning to coaching to ease that pain.

Rodgers has his philosophy...pressing, passing and penetration. Howe's is the same. They are kindred spirits and have a warm relationship, no doubt helped by the Ulsterman inviting Howe to spend time with him when he was in charge of Swansea. In the build-up to last night's tie, Howe, 37, four years younger than Rodgers, declared his opposite number was an inspiration to him. That didn't stop Howe trying to pile more pressure on the under-fire Liverpool boss.

Had Bournemouth's finishing been up to scratch they may have done. All the attractive, creative football in the world, as Liverpool found out at Old Trafford, might be easy on the eye but when goals don't follow that can be hard to stomach.

The home side missed early opportunities and paid for it as Raheem Sterling, displaying a ruthless side not evident in Manchester at the weekend, scored either side of the break.

The decision by Rodgers to keep him as Liverpool's main line of attack was rewarded as was the call to start Lazar Markovic, also on the scoresheet with a clever finish.

Bournemouth's late reply was consolation only. The jury is out on the three-man defence, but overall this was a good night for the Reds boss after too many bad ones.

It's Chelsea in the January semi-finals, but Jose Mourinho can wait. Rodgers has Arsenal on his mind now and the word momentum primed for Sunday's team talk. For Howe, the aim is promotion. We haven't heard the last of him.

Belfast Telegraph

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