Raheem Sterling nets brace to help Reds through over Bournemouth
Raheem Sterling’s first goals since mid-September helped Liverpool end a miserable seven days with a place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals at the expense of Bournemouth.
The England winger had endured a 22-game goal drought for club and country until he set Liverpool on their way to a 3-1 away win with a close-range header.
Lazar Markovic, fresh from his controversial red card as the Reds exited Europe, grabbed the second before a trademark Sterling run ended with his fifth of the season to put the smiles back on the faces of supporters after their Old Trafford defeat.
Dan Gosling, who memorably netted a cup winner to beat Liverpool in his Everton days, pulled a goal back and then rattled a post as the Championship leaders relinquished their 12-game unbeaten run.
The majority of the sold-out crowd arrived with expectations that their table-toppers could pile more misery on Brendan Rodgers and they almost took an early lead against a strong Liverpool line-up.
Left-back Adam Smith, one of six Bournemouth changes, saw an effort blocked by Martin Skrtel before Callum Wilson side-footed wide having done all the hard work to create an opening.
After those escapes Liverpool began to kick into gear, with Adam Lallana forcing his former Southampton team-mate Artur Boruc into a fine save from 20 yards.
Baily Cargill is yet to make a Championship start but Cherries boss Eddie Howe kept faith with the youngster, a regular during this competition, and he caught the eye with a fine block to deny Sterling after he had scampered through the hosts’ half.
The visitors were beginning to pin Bournemouth in their own half and that sustained pressure eventually told in the 20th minute when Jordan Henderson headed Markovic’s delivery across goal for Sterling to nod in.
It was no surprise when Liverpool doubled their lead seven minutes later. Philippe Coutinho’s low near-post shot was kept out by Boruc but the ball fell straight to Markovic, who calmly chalked up his first Liverpool goal.
Free-scoring Bournemouth carved out a huge chance to cut the deficit with the game’s next move – only for Yann Kermorgont to fire his effort over the crossbar.
Having struggled with Cardiff’s aerial presence in Saturday’s 5-3 victory, Bournemouth’s defence were facing a completely different threat with Rodgers’ nippy playmakers swarming around behind Sterling.
And Rodgers’ false nine showed his electric pace to create a chance for himself just before the break, only for the diving figure of Boruc to deny Sterling.
The England player would, however, only have to wait until the 51st minute to double his tally. Picking up a pass from Lallana he twisted and turned past Cherries captain Tommy Elphick and found the bottom corner.
Reds goalkeeper Brad Jones had enjoyed a quiet evening on his second successive start in place of the dropped Simon Mignolet until the 57th minute, when the goalkeeper failed to cover himself in glory as the Cherries pulled a goal back. Gosling cleverly stepping through two challenges before squeezing a shot past the Australian.
Sterling missed a gilt-edged chance to claim a hat-trick when he dragged a 67th-minute effort wide from Lallana’s back-heeled pass but that was a rare respite from a spell of Bournemouth domination.
Substitute Ryan Fraser watched his looping header fall wide, Gosling crashed an effort off Jones’ other post and then Ritchie drilled a low effort across goal.
Despite controlling possession Bournemouth could only muster a wayward effort from Simon Francis and a header from Cargill in the final 10 minutes but they bowed out with their heads held high.