Blackburn Rovers 1
Santa Cruz 86.
Alonso 69, Benayoun 79, Gerrard 90.
Sometimes fate really rubs it in. As we struggled to get to grips with this game and score our first league goal for over 200 minutes of football Michael Owen, the subject of an unfounded Liverpool transfer rumour earlier this week, was banging in two goals for Newcastle against Stoke. However, as things turned out Owen’s day was to turn sour as Stoke recovered to gain a draw while we finished our match on a high note and, more comfortingly and reassuringly than earlier in the week, the evening in the highest position!
Rafa’s line up was interesting to say the least. Short of goals so he reverts to 4:5:1. Yet significantly although Kuyt on his own up front was ineffective, the midfield, with the extra man, eventually found space and profited handsomely.
Robbie Keane was one of the victims of Rafa’s new formation, or was he paying the price for his recent indifferent form? A good move that will serve to galvanise him, or one that will dent his confidence even more? We shall see. Kuyt was flanked by Benayoun and Babel as Riera also made way. Interestingly at the back Sami retained his place over the Agger, a result of the newspaper stores about the Dane’s contract demands and the move to AC Milan? Rafa also seemingly lost patience with the patchy Dossena and bought in Insua.
The first half was a familiar story. Plenty of possession and but no end product. Ironically when were playing two men wide the first genuine chance was carved out via the middle. A nice interchange involving Gerrard, Alonso and Kuyt put Benayoun through however he took a touch too much and allowed Warnock to make a well timed tackle. A second or so late and Gerrard would be lining up a spot kick. Blackburn, as one would expect from a home side, came back into it as Pederson hit the crossbar with a swerving shot that I think Riera just got his finger tips to.
Next Gerrard summed up our situation so far by screwing one horribly wide. Had Rafa tinkered too much? Kuyt always works hard but on this occasion was having little to show for his industry as he was increasingly swamped by Blackburn shirts. By half time one was wondering if we would ever score. Seeing Robbie Fowler on the Blackburn bench made the mind wonder idly. What would we give for the man in his pomp now?
However, just as thoughts of three goalless games on the trot were being contemplated, the tide turned. Alonso tested Robinson with decent effort. Babel also began to make inroads and it was his pass that set up Gerrard on the edge of the area. His shot was spilled by Robinson but Benayoun, with Nelson breathing down his neck, was unable to winkle the ball free. By the time he had managed this, the angle was impossible. Benayoun then made the wrong decision trying to squeeze it in or cross it, rather than knock it back to Gerrard.
Perhaps cool heads were called for and Xabi Alonso provided just that? He started the move feeding Benayoun who found Gerrard. His cross found Kuyt whose attempted shot was charged down into the path of Alonso who had kept running. Rather that lamp it he simply side footed the ball between lunging defenders into the net from the edge of the area. A cool, cool goal that was in contrast to the relief his celebration showed.
Benayoun then gave us daylight by collecting Kuyt’s pass and firing home emphatically across Robinson from the corner of the six yard area. Two goals from two players who were the subject of transfer rumours in the summer though I suspect that was the last thing on Rafa’s mind. Santa Cruz headed home Samba’s cross however, Gerrard settled nerves and secured the points and the pints firing into an empty net after Robinson had shot his bolt trying to stop an El Zhar run.
A important result that hopefully answers a few questions. Not our greatest performance but isn’t that what they say makes a good team, the ability to produce even when things aren’t one hundred percent.
Perhaps we can look at the table and smile now!
Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Andrews, Kerimoglu (Vogel 84), Pedersen (McCarthy 81), Roque Santa Cruz, Derbyshire (Treacy 90).
Subs Not Used: Brown, Villanueva, Simpson, Fowler.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, , Insua, Benayoun (Riera 87), Mascherano (Leiva Lucas 83), Alonso, Babel (El Zhar 64), Gerrard, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Keane.