LIVERPOOL, England -- Three thoughts from Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Bournemouth at Anfield in the Premier League.
1. Bournemouth come back again to frustrate Klopp
It was not quite the complete capitulation of December, not the full action replay, but there was a dash of déjà vu for Liverpool. Once again, they were left to rue Bournemouth's capacity to mount fine comebacks. The Cherries have emerged as their unlikely bogey team. Their 4-3 win over Jurgen Klopp's side earlier in the season was perhaps the most famous result in club history. A 2-2 draw at Anfield ranks among the better and offered further proof of their resolve.
Liverpool should have taken six points against Bournemouth this season. They end up with one, and should they miss out on Champions League football, they can point to their inability to hold on to a lead against the south coast club as a reason why.
They were 3-1 ahead with a quarter of an hour to go five months ago. They were 2-1 up after 86 minutes this time around. Then Harry Arter shot and Josh King intervened to swivel and fire in the leveller. His eighth goal in as many games brought more joyous scenes in the Bournemouth technical area, Eddie Howe bouncing in excitement. Klopp, meanwhile, cut a frustrated figure.
Liverpool's self-destructive streak had been apparent from the start when Georginio Wijnaldum telegraphed a backpass, Benik Afobe read it and slotted past Simon Mignolet to become the first Bournemouth player to find the net at Anfield in 90 years.
Yet when Wijnaldum got a redemptive assist, crossing for Divock Origi to head Liverpool into the lead, it seemed all would end well. Philippe Coutinho had levelled before Nathaniel Clyne rattled the bar. Klopp had brought on Joel Matip as a third centre-back to try and shore the side up. In the end, the Cameroonian international and fellow defender Ragnar Klavan almost summoned a winner, both coming close with headers.
But while a return of four points from two games is better than or equal to what Arsenal, Everton and the Manchester clubs have mustered, it still felt a missed opportunity. Their top-four status looks safer than it was a week ago, but their position could be still more secure.
2. Coutinho and Origi compensate for Mane's absence
It was a nice line from Klopp when he said that Red Bull Salzburg and Southampton are still missing Sadio Mane. The greater concern was that Liverpool missed their talisman when he was representing Senegal in the African Nations Cup in January and that now Mane could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
January proved Mane is irreplaceable, partly because Liverpool failed to sign another winger then and partly because they lack anyone else with his pace and incision. It means he ranks among the most crucial players in the league.
Considering they were also without Adam Lallana, whose cleverness in possession renders him almost as significant, it was doubly important that others stepped up. And, unlike in January, they assumed the responsibility for finding the net. Origi and Coutinho have now both scored two goals in as many games when they only had one in 15 and 17 respectively beforehand. Their returns to form have been both welcome and well-timed.
The Belgian is the stand-in, the Brazilian the stand-out player in this side. He was the only one of the first-choice front four to start in his favoured role, on the left. Roberto Firmino can seem a lesser player when moved to the right to deputise for Mane but, wandering into the middle, he illustrated the chemistry he and his compatriot possess, digging out a deft pass for Coutinho to supply the finish.
If there is a case for playing Origi on the right and allowing Firmino to act as the false nine, the striker showed why Klopp used him centrally. He scored a striker's goal, heading in Wijnaldum's cross and while his has been a stop-start season, it is acquiring momentum again. Yet Bournemouth's fightback means Liverpool are still to record a league win this season without Mane.
3. Ibe unimpressive on Anfield return
Liverpool alumni tend to be present at Anfield on a matchday. Here, two took up unusual positions. Kenny Dalglish, often in the directors' box, was in the Kop. Jordon Ibe, usually on the Bournemouth bench, was in the starting XI. This was just his second league start in five months, a statistic that is an indictment of Bournemouth's record signing and an indication that less vaunted talents have made more of an impact.
Ibe's exclusion was obscured when Jack Wilshere was also a substitute but getting £15 million for someone who has only been a substitute for Bournemouth ranks as brilliant business by Liverpool. This game brought a change in approach from Howe. Wilshere, who had lost his place when the role of a No. 10 was rendered redundant, was finally trusted in a central-midfield duo and produced a tidy performance. Ryan Fraser, Liverpool's December tormentor was demoted for the Anfield old boy Ibe.
An opportunity was afforded, but it was not taken. Only a very small minority of Liverpool fans booed him. Most could afford to ignore him. If Ibe's pace seemed a potential threat, it scarcely helped him when he dribbled the ball out of play. If James Milner's attacking bent ought to have offered Ibe space to exploit, he failed to do so. This was another example of the quietly competent Milner's capacity to cope, but he remains a makeshift left-back and Ibe could not trouble him. It was no surprise the sparkier Fraser came on for Ibe, or if the Scot returns to the starting XI against Chelsea on Saturday.