EPL

Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota doubles send Liverpool five points clear at the top

By Sports Desk January 21, 2024

Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota claimed second-half doubles as Premier League leaders Liverpool moved five points clear with a crushing 4-0 victory away to Bournemouth.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds initially struggled to create at the Vitality Stadium in the absence of top scorer Mohamed Salah.

But Nunez broke the deadlock early in the second period and completed the scoring in added time following Jota’s quick-fire double.

Victory on a soggy south coast afternoon stretched Liverpool’s unbeaten run to 14 league fixtures as they fully capitalised on a weekend off for second-placed Manchester City.

In-form Bournemouth were competitive for large parts of a frenetic encounter, but rarely threatened en route to only their second defeat in nine games.

A difficult outing for Andoni Iraola’s hosts could have been worse as Justin Kluivert was perhaps fortunate to escape a red card for a first-half challenge on Luis Diaz.

Liverpool were back in top-flight action for the first time since New Year’s Day, but without talisman Salah, who has sustained a hamstring injury at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt, in the league for the first time this season.

The Reds were unable to find fluency in the opening stages as Bournemouth began brighter, albeit without testing Alisson.

Klopp’s men grew into the game and eventually enjoyed some meaningful territory.

Alexis Mac Allister fired wide from distance, before long-range efforts from Nunez and Diaz were comfortably collected by Cherries goalkeeper Neto.

Bournemouth, who had also not played a league fixture for three weeks, then breathed a sigh of relief in the 35th minute when Kluivert avoided punishment after catching Diaz with a high, studs-up tackle.

Ryan Christie eventually registered the hosts’ maiden attempt at goal in the 39th minute – a tame effort straight at Alisson – and was then unable to turn home Kluivert’s dangerous low centre just before the break.

Following a fairly forgettable first half devoid of clear chances, Liverpool capitalised on sloppy defending to edge ahead four minutes after the restart.

Ibrahima Konate’s cross-field ball was chested down by the unmarked Curtis Jones and then moved on to Jota, whose first-time pass was confidently slotted into the bottom right corner by Nunez.

Nunez, who was unfavourably compared to former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll by gloating home fans in the first half, was also involved in his side’s 70th-minute second.

The powerful Uruguay forward caused problems for Bournemouth defender Chris Mepham, allowing Reds substitute Cody Gakpo to pounce on the loose ball and slip in Jota to find the net via the base of the right post.

Jota extinguished any hope of a Cherries fightback just nine minutes later.

The Portugal forward miskicked his first effort following a pass from Premier League debutant Conor Bradley, but swiftly silenced ironic cheers by rifling into the bottom left corner.

Cherries substitute David Brooks wasted a golden chance to claim a consolation when he dinked wide in 90th minute.

And Nunez, who claimed the winner when the clubs met in the Carabao Cup fourth round at the start of November, rubbed salted into Bournemouth wounds three minutes into added time by registering his second with a fine close-range finish.

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