Riera 26, Keane 53, 58.
With the Chelsea and Mancs victories earlier in the day perhaps there was bit more pressure on us as we stepped out into the winter sun yesterday afternoon? A bit of a worry given our recent home form? Could this have been the day when we started to crack? No siree another game over and thankfully the sort of comprehensive, no sweat (or at least it looked like that) win that we have not seen at home for some time.
Recently Bolton had shown plenty of signs of recreating the snarling, difficult, “up and at ‘em” side that made them so troublesome under Sam Allardyce. However, today they were easily tamed and hopefully our performance will give people the opportunity to concentrate on something else other than our home form and Robbie Keane, be it his own form or potential replacements?
There were no real surprises with the team. Torres sat in the stand with Rafa while Benayoun started out wide and Kuyt moved inside to lead the line with Keane behind. Carragher moved to left back just as he did at the Reebok. Three centre backs to counteract Bolton’s physicality? On the evidence of their line up we needn’t have worried as “Mystic Megson” (Five Live’s Stuart Hall’s words) in an ultimately futile attempt to stifle Gerrard et al, named five in midfield and, as a result, relegated the robust Kevin Davies to the bench.
We started well but it was a familiar story. As their line up suggested, Bolton set up a protective cordon around Jaaskelainen and invited us to breach it. We went forward, sideways down the wing, over the top and through the centre, if there was a cellar door or a skylight we would have probably tried that as well! The first effort of many was a nice volley from the increasingly impressive Insua. Kuyt should have done better from Alonso’s cross whilst Carragher, from range, nearly got himself a rare goal. However, the task facing us was clear, freezing the picture on the highlights I counted nine Bolton players in or around the area and four of ours. But, sometimes less can be more!
The first goal was straight forward. Alonso’s corner from the left was nodded away for another. Gerrard fired it in from the right. Agger could clearly be seen having a word with Riera before Gerrard stepped up to take it. I don’t know what he said but it worked as the winger sprinted to the near post and evaded everyone to poke it home on the volley with the outside of his foot.
Despite all our domination, in terms of both chances and possession, patience was the watchword and thankfully the first goal meant no repeat of the frustration we had seen in recent games from the team and the crowd? To be honest it did look as if we would get another and it came eight minutes into the second half. Alonso won the ball in midfield and fed Gerrard who hit a slide rule pass into Robbie Keane’s path who powered the ball over Jaaskelainen’s right shoulder into the roof of the net. Keane’s gesture after the goal, arms stretched out wide, seemed appropriate given the “crucifixion” he’s undergone recently?
Further salvation was to follow when he got on the end of a fine flowing, direct move on the counter that started with Reina rolling the ball out, in a manner that suggested he had been visiting his local “crown green” to Alonso, who fed Benayoun whose cross was converted by Keane with a confidence that many had suggested he’d lost. Game over and Rafa, or was it Sammy, was able to rest players for Newcastle and even allow Keane the rare luxury of a full, but fruitless, “hook free” game to chase his hat trick.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Insua, Benayoun, Gerrard (Leiva Lucas 73), Alonso, Riera (El Zhar 69), Keane, Kuyt (Ngog 76).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Babel, Mascherano, Darby.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Andrew O’Brien, Samuel (Davies 46), Muamba, Nolan, McCann, Taylor (Riga 66), Gardner, Elmander (Smolarek 66).
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Shittu, Basham, Obadeyi.