Bolton Wanderers 0
Gosh! Shock horror, a Liverpool away win, our first since April. Last night the table had a more respectable look about it, the heady heights of twelfth! However, that is not for consideration yet. Heart should be taken from a performance against tough opposition which although being far from the Liverpool one would expect to see, was full of grit and determination seeing us take another step, albeit tentatively at times, along the road to “recovery”. Earlier in the day Newcastle had delivered Sunderland a consummate knock out blow this was more of a narrow, but deserved, victory on points.
HRH kept with the same side as last Sunday. Perhaps he would have bought in Glen Johnson if he’d recovered from his thigh strain but I guess there was nothing wrong with keeping the same line up and hoping it would build on the Blackburn game? This meant that in the middle we had Kyrgiakos and Skrtel who would be charged with dealing with the robustness of Kevin Davies and Elmander. I think both the Greek and Slovakian were ideally suited to the challenge no one could ever accuse them of not being “hard enough”
Bolton began by trying to bully us however we had more than our fair share of the spat with Torres’ head just failing to get over Gerrard’s corner. Then followed a guilt edged chance for our main man. Honing in on goal Torres delayed and delayed beat Cahill and then found himself short of space. Many will say an in form, more confident Torres would have pulled the trigger earlier but had he scored it would have been a sublime goal probably prompting the same people to conclude that he had emerged from his trough of despair! Such is life!
Despite the miss it was a confident and encouraging opening. We had plenty of possession with Holden’s long range effort being the only blot on our copybook. Arguably we were unable to build on this and allowed Bolton to nudge their way back into the frame and they were perhaps unlucky not to win a spot kick after Carragher’s hand made contact with ball just inside the area.
The second half saw both sides sussing each other out. Then Joe Cole finished another bland performance by tweaking a hamstring allowing Ngog to replace him and Gerrard drop back into midfield. From then on we had more to offer. True Bolton came forward and Elmander had a couple of poorly taken efforts however we were positive and always looking to attack and pin the back four into their half. Kyrgiakos, who had one of his best games for Liverpool, nodded a Gerrard corner just over the bar. However he nearly blotted his copybook with a clumsy barge on Davies just after the hour that I suspect the referee didn’t see. Next came the best move of the match a free flowing affair from box to box involving Ngog, Maxi, Gerrard, Torres which culminated in a spectacular overhead effort from Maxi. It was a small glimpse, a snapshot, of what this side is capable of which makes it all the more frustrating that it can’t be produced more often?
Bolton nearly broke the deadlock with a dangerous free kick which only needed one of their players in the box a get a touch on it however, Maxi’s time was to come. Lucas fed Torres on the edge of the area who back heeled the ball through a Bolton defenders legs to find Maxi whose toe poke squirmed under Jaaskelainen into the net. A scrappy goal perhaps, but the warning signs had been there for Bolton and all in all it was deserved.
So the momentum continues another win and another boost to the confidence in a game that could easily have gone against us? There are still signs of tentativeness, the number of stray passes, especially in the final third, is still a cause for concern. However it is a long process but heart must have been taken from the win.
Finally a special mention for Kyrgiakos and Martin Skrtel who added to their increasing list of impressive performances by out muscling and out playing Bolton’s rough and tumble duo of Davies and Elmander. Kyrgiakos and Skrtel might not always be first choice but for yesterday they were the perfect solution, they “out Boltoned” Bolton and although it’s not pretty, high quality football I took quite a perverse pleasure in that!
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Robinson, Cahill, Knight, Muamba, Taylor (Blake 88), Holden, Lee (Moreno 74), Elmander (Klasnic 81), Davies, Substitutes: Bogdan, Ricketts, Davies, Cohen, Klasnic, Moreno, Blake
Liverpool: Reina, Konchesky, Kyrgiakos, Carragher, Skrtel, Raul Meireles (C Poulsen 89), Gerrard, Cole (Ngog 61), Maxi, Lucas, Torres, Substitutes: Hansen, Kelly, Spearing, C Poulsen, Shelvey, Jovanovic, Ngog