LIVERPOOL 1 BOURNEMOUTH 0
LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers questioned the merits of the new offside rule despite his side benefitting from a contentious winner to maintain their perfect opening to the season against Bournemouth last night.
The Reds are now unbeaten in their opening home match in each of the last 12 Premier League seasons after £32.5m forward Christian Benteke marked his Anfield debut with a decisive, if controversial, strike.
Offside laws were tweaked prior to the start of the season to help clarify the issue of players occupying offside positions but being deemed inactive. Under the new rule, players making a clear attempt to play the ball – similar to Philippe Coutinho with Liverpool’s winner – should be flagged offside.
“It’s very difficult for officials and players. I just think if you’re offside, you’re offside. It was said a long time ago that if you’re on the field then you’re interfering with play,” said Rodgers. “The interpretation of offside changes every season. For us, it counted. It’s a difficult one but it was a goal and that’s all that concerns me.”
Rodgers also insisted that Liverpool’s ability to engineer victories, while still bedding in a number of new signings, would be pivotal in the early stages of the campaign.
“The spotlight is always on you at Liverpool. It’s six points, two clean sheets and the team will grow in terms of fluency,” he added. “We have a lot of new players who are finding their feet. They are finding ways to win while looking to improve performance.”
Bournemouth thought they had netted their first-ever top-flight goal after five minutes only for referee Craig Pawson to penalise defender Tommy Elphick, who had powered a header beyond Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, for a foul on Dejan Lovren.
Their sense of injustice was heightened when an offside Coutinho motioned towards the ball as Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson’s inswinging cross bounced beyond him and was prodded home from inside the six-yard box by Benteke.
Not since 2010 have Liverpool lost a Premier League game when winning at half-time but they were given a stern examination by the Cherries, who continued to play with a sense of enterprise, albeit without overly troubling their opponent’s goal, throughout the second half.
Winger Matt Ritchie scored 15 goals for Bournemouth last term and clipped the post on the hour mark, while in the dying embers of proceedings Benteke struck the crossbar from full-back Nathaniel Clyne’s low right-wing cross.