Saturday, 25 January 2014

Match Report: Cherries give it their all against Liverpool stars 0:2

FA Cup Fourth Round
AFCB 0 v 2 Liverpool
25 January 2014
Attendance: 11,475
The big match is about to start.
Today had been built up as one of those days in the football calender when shocks can happen. The FA Cup ticket for the fourth round match of AFCB v Liverpool was the hottest ticket in town and if you did not manage to secure a ticket, the TV screen was no doubt a welcome but second best. Either way you will have seen Eddie Howe's team take on some of today's Premiership stars in a line up that didn't disappoint and was fitting for the occasion. With Brendan Rodgers looking on from his dugout and Roy Keane sampling the sea air from his hide away commentary box along with Gabriel Clarke and Clive Tyldesley, we were ready to see how the Championship seasiders would go against the seven times FA Cup Champions.
AFCB team photo.
The North stand brings the inflatables.
The atmosphere in the ground was pumping with a near maximum capacity apart from where the TV cameras sat. The electronic hoardings were squeezed into place leaving no room for long throw ins and a trail of water on the walkways were evidence that the pitch coverings released a lot of water when they had finally been removed for the showpiece match. Something inside of me felt that while it would be amazing to see Gerrard, Sturridge, Suarez and company on the pitch. Their inclusion from the start would mean less of a chance for an upset, but I hoped that the Cherries would be able to compete and from that aspect they did not disappoint.

AFCB started lively by winning a corner in the first minute and while Jones could not get to the ball cleanly the Cherries ended up with a second corner. O'Kane and Daniels tried to recover the situation but Grabban was caught offside.

Henderson then lost the ball and Daniels sent in a cross that Surman headed over. It was just the kind of start that I had been hoping for. AFCB were really going for Liverpool. Further pressure was applied as Coutinho fouled O'Kane. Henderson was spewing his passes out of play while AFCB looked to take control. Skrtel had to make a strong tackle on Grabban as he raced towards goal, while Pugh had a shot blocked.

Suarez was making himself felt as he fouled Elphick on five minutes, but Liverpool started to look a little more at ease for the next few minutes as they passed the ball around. Kolo Toure floated a long ball up for Aly Cissokho but saw it run out of play.

Moses and Henderson were doing battle with O'Kane and Ward, and when AFCB broke with Surman he looked for Pugh on the left but ran out of pitch.

Liverpool then threatened with Gerrard playing a ball through to Suarez who was given offside. O'Kane had the crowd up again as he left Couthino on the floor. AFCB started to force things again with a cross from Surman that was blocked and a Daniels' shot that was deflected for a corner on 11 minutes. Toure headed clear but as Pugh was fouled, AFCB had a free kick wide out on the left. Francis' delivery was more of a shot in the end that Jones had to tip over!

Jones was keen to punch on corners and while AFCB threatened in the first 15 minutes, there was no end product. Jones was now catching the crosses that Surman was delivering and no Bournemouth player was getting close enough.

Meanwhile, Moses and Coutinho were cooking up trouble at the other end on the left wing with Moses leaving Francis on the floor, with worrying ease, as he reached the byline, although Elphick was able to clear. Liverpool were getting into their groove with Moses, Coutinho, Henderson and Toure getting on the ball as well as Gerrard. Sturridge though was not timing his runs quite right and was given offside.

AFCB looked to get O'Kane on the ball while he launched a pass for Grabban to go for that Jones came out to clear from goal. Ritchie then picked up a free kick in the right hand corner, but Ward headed wide.

Suarez was keeping busy with lots of runs but he hadn't managed to get a clear opportunity to show off his striking talents with some 20 minutes gone, Elphick mainly thwarting his chances. But Gerrard was worryingly finding Moses in space on the left wing more frequently.

Grabban was having a personal battle with Toure which included shirt tugging as they both raced for the ball. A few moments later Surman and Couthino clashed heads but both recovered okay. Arter's foul on Suarez though had the home crowd fearful on 24 minutes as it was on the edge of the box in a good shooting position. While Gerrard and Suarez stood over the ball, it was Gerrard that struck it well over the crossbar! That's close enough, I thought. 

However, that was merely a prelude though to another attack a minute later. This time Liverpool came down the right with Suarez and his whipped in cross found Moses free on the left edge of the box, a quick control and shimmy to his right and he had some space to let a shot go hard and low to Camp's left. Camp didn't get down quick enough and the ball hit the back of the net bottom right corner. It was 0:1 to the visitors and the carnival atmosphere went quiet!

AFCB's response was almost immediate with Arter getting Grabban in at goal on the right only for his shot to be saved by the keeper down low. While Liverpool blocked and kept their shape, more corners still came. The next ended in a Ricthie shot and as the half hour arrived Arter blasted his shot wide. AFCB were shooting but the keeper wasn't being tested, a familiar story.

When Liverpool broke and crossed it was Elphick coming to the rescue on most occasions, while O'Kane's influence was slowly growing. There was a great chance on 35 minutes when Suman took a driven shot that was deflected off of Toure when it had looked goal bound. Elphick then had a clear header from the corner but put it over!

Liverpool also had their chances with Henderson being the culprit on 37 minutes when Suarez had pulled a good ball back to him on the penalty spot, which the English midfielder sent high into the North stand. At the other end Arter was shooting high and then right at the keeper when he might have done better. A minute later Daniels shot was blocked. 

Liverpool tried to extend their advantage on the break, Sturridge getting caught offside again but showing that he could finish after the whistle had gone. Arter then had a shot from the edge of the box charged down by Skrtel for a corner which was cleared. AFCB won one last corner in the half the ball was comfortably taken by Jones at waiste height.

AFCB's cover was proving fairly good as half time was reached. 0:1 down was not insurmountable and the Cherries would be kicking towards the North stand in the second half.

Liverpool players come back on the pitch after half time.
Second Half
Liverpool came out looking to play keep ball, but Surman eventually got a toe in to break up the Liverpool party. AFCB's next attack was looking promising with Daniels and Pugh on the left but then Surman slipped in the box and the opportunity was gone. Grabban then benefited from a Daniels run with Henderson just keeping him out. Skrtel and Kelly got the ball away, but Pugh soon arrived back in the box, although Ritchie and Grabban were forced out wide. When Grabban returned the ball in and Surman and Skrtel went for a header and Skrtel came off worse. Play was stopped and Skrtel had to have attention to a head injury and stopped the game for a while but Surman was okay sooner. 

While another corner resulted in Elphick heading wide, we began to wonder if Eddie would make some changes. Arter won another corner much to Gerrard's annoyance and his back chat landed him a yellow card on 56 minutes. He had thought the assistant referee should have flagged for offside and talked his way into the book. The corner was important because Francis went down under shirt pulling from Kelly, but the referee did not see it. Skrtel then returned with a non-too fetching black head cap and no number on his shirt. 

When Suarez was then fouled on half way, Liverpool again showed their class on 59 minutes. The kick was quickly taken and Suarez played in Sturridge with a pass between Ward and Daniels. Sturridge simply raced on to the pass and struck his shot across camp to the far corner and that was that. Liverpool were 0:2 up! Given the opportunity Liverpool found the clear strike to give them breathing space. How AFCB could have done with some of that finishing talent.

From the restart AFCB were straight on the attack but Surman could not get a shot off much to AFCB supporters' frustration. Ritchie won a free kick on the edge of Liverpool's box but when it was rolled to him he hit his shot well wide. Liverpool were still looking for more goals with their crowd now in full voice. Lee Camp had to come out quickly to deny Suarez, after Coutinho had spotted Suarez on the move.

A moment of magic came from Eunan O'Kane from the left touchline when he waltzed pass three white shirts before passing to Pugh, although the move came to nothing. Gerrard was meanwhile starting to make his signature passes in swapping play from one wing to another, as if AFCB needed stretching any further! Moses was still looking sharp, although Liverpool did not profit from their next corner. More impressive was Sturridge who had been quiet but just had a sudden pot shot at goal from the left side and had camp back peddling before the ball hit the bar and went over. 

With the game sliding away Eddie Howe brought on Fraser for Ritchie and Rantie for Pugh on 72 minutes. Liverpool also subbed Kelly for Flanagan. Liverpool were seeing out the game with relative ease though. Moses tried his luck after a corner but shot wide from the left wing. 

AFCB had not brought their shooting boots today. Even when Surman looked in from an O'Kane pass he shot over. Pitman also came on for the last 15 or so minutes, replacing Arter. The Cherries did look like they were running out of steam by now. Rantie was making some runs but not managing to keep hold of the ball. Grabban too was still making himself available.

With less than 10 minutes to go Moses was replaced by Raheem Sterling and Coutinho was subbed for Luis Alberto. 

AFCB plugged on although the frustration from Daniels was clear when he crossed to see know one in the box, giving Jones a simple catch. The best save Jones made though was from Grabban on 89 minutes when he pushed a drive over for a corner. 

There was a funny moment near the end when Pitman tripped over his own boots as he landed in the penalty area with no Liverpool player near him. But that was the last real opportunity for AFCB. Even in extra time Suarez was trying to get on the score sheet and only Camp managed to stop him from adding to the scoreline with a strong right hand low down. The game had gone though and Liverpool were through to the Fifth round of the FA Cup.

AFCB's players will look back on this experience as a valuable encounter. While they did not manage to make Jones make as many saves as they would have liked they did play some very attractive football and did not look at all out of place on the pitch with some of the best that the Premiership has to offer. It is in the final third where they fall short like so many teams. There was no complacency at the back today and Elphick I though had one of his best games, while O'Kane is fast becoming the player that the rest of the team are looking towards to set the pace and tone of the performance - another good Man of the Match stint from him.

Eddie Howe can have a lot to be proud of today. His team did not falter or freeze. They gave it a good go and will know that they need to take their chances if they are to become a better team. You may get less time to ensure you can have an accurate shot against these top teams but learning to make the space and snap the shots off quickly is something that can be worked on. The strategy, comfort on the ball and quick triangular play are becoming second nature. Beating top teams though is not easy and it's okay to know when you come up a bit short, but the AFCB players gave their all today and Liverpool deserved their victory.

Camp, Daniels, Elphick, Ward, Francis, Ritchie (Fraser 72), Arter (Pitman 75), O'Kane, Surman, Pugh (Rantie 72), Grabban

AFCB Subs:
Allsop, Harte, Fraser, Pitman, Cook, MacDonald, Rantie

AFCB Ratings
Camp 7, Daniels 7, Elphick 8, Ward 7, Francis 6, Ritchie 6, Arter 6, O'Kane 8, Surman 7, Pugh 7, Grabban 6.

Jones, Kelly (Flanagan 73), Toure, Skrtel, Cissokho, Moses (Sterling 83), Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Alberto 84), Suarez, Sturridge.

Liverpool subs:
Mignolet, Alberto, Aspas, Sterling, Ibe, Flanagan, Sama. 

Another great game from Eunan O'Kane.

Many more pictures to come on tomorrow's Match Day Gallery.

Extended match highlights

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