LIVERPOOL: Runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool resumed normal service with an unconvincing 2-1 victory over relegation-threatened Bournemouth on Saturday but they had to recover from an early jolt at Anfield.
Goals in quick succession by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane before halftime calmed the jitters after Callum Wilson had given Bournemouth a surprise ninth-minute lead.
It was far from vintage Liverpool, however, and they struggled to finish off a Bournemouth side who almost grabbed a late equaliser through Wilson.
After Liverpool’s 44-match unbeaten league run ended in shocking fashion at Watford last week, victory restored their 25-point lead over Manchester City who have two games in hand.
Three defeats in their last four matches in all competitions had given Liverpool something of a reality check, even if only serial pessimists among their fans truly believed they might blow their first title for 30 years.
It is still a matter of when, not if, Juergen Klopp’s men seal the deal and Saturday’s win, their 22nd in succession at home in the Premier League, restored their 25-point lead.
Three more wins and they will be crowned champions.
They want to finish in style, though, and that was missing initially against a Bournemouth side who are scrapping for their top-flight survival.
Bournemouth’s goal left Klopp apoplectic. Wilson appeared to nudge Joe Gomez off the ball before passing to Philip Billing whose well-timed pass released Jefferson Lerma.
Wilson, who had continued his run, met Lerma’s low cross with a simple tap-in.
Liverpool were rattled and Nathan Ake almost made it 2-0 with a thumping header from a corner that was well saved by keeper Adrian, in for the injured Alisson.
Bournemouth’s problem all season has been an inability to avoid conceding needless goals and it was from a dreadful mistake that Liverpool equalised in the 25th minute.
Youngster Jack Simpson had only been on the pitch a few minutes to replace injured skipper Steve Cook when he took a heavy touch and was robbed by Mane.
Mane’s ball to Salah was not the best but the Egyptian cut inside Lerma and drove home a low left-foot shot that beat Aaron Ramsdale at his near post.
Klopp celebrated like a man possessed, still seething at what he felt was a poor decision to allow Bournemouth’s goal.
Mini-crisis over, Liverpool went ahead eight minutes later when Bournemouth again lost possession and Virgil van Dijk released Mane who ran through unopposed to score with ease.
Liverpool missed their usual zip and almost paid for their lack of urgency when Ake had the chance to equalise after a scramble.
Bournemouth will rue an opportunity lost against an off-key Liverpool and remain third bottom on 27 points, the same as West Ham United and Watford who have a superior goal difference.