Liverpool reached the League Cup semi final with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday night, as Raheem Sterling scored a brace either side of Lazar Markovic's first-half finish. Former Everton midfielder Dan Gosling pulled a goal back for the home side, but it proved to be little more than a consolation.
Sterling may have stolen the plaudits for his role in this fairly comfortable Reds victory, but it was Philippe Coutinho who inspired the club's first-half surge to supremacy. Following a disappointing weekend performance in the Reds' 3-0 defeat to Manchester United - for which he was slated by pundits and fans alike - the 22-year-old came charging out of the blocks in this tie, ready to impress.
Playing on the right-hand side of an attacking midfield trio (Lallana-Sterling-Coutinho), the little Brazilian took hold of proceedings with his incredible creative ability. He made an instant impact with his terrific passing and fancy footwork, playing an impressive three key passes throughout the opening exchanges. While he failed to add to this total past the halfway mark, his involvement saw him succeed with a match-best four take-ons.
As usual, Coutinho linked up extremley well with his attacking teammates. In total he made 35 passes, 91.4% of which were accurate. The Liverpool front four interchanged positions regularly, while exchanging possession with maximum efficiency, as evidenced by Sterling's opening goal - a move of 52 consecutive passes, before the England youngster headed the Merseyside outfit into the lead.
Despite his ability to provide for his teammates, Coutinho lacked the telling finish that we have seen in the past - that killer instinct to put the game to bed himself. He managed more attempts at goal (4) than any other player throughout his cameo, and yet he was still only able to hit the target on one occasion.
Somewhat wasteful in front of goal, Coutinho's lacklustre finishing proved the difference between a man-of-the-match display and an early removal from the action. As it stood, Brendan Rodgers felt the need to remove his Samba star with 20 minutes left to play, bringing an end to a performance that saw just a few key boxes unchecked.
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