In miserable conditions, this was a match whose scoreline could have spiraled out-of-control towards the end. Although Bolton did their best (well…) to apply pressure when and where they could, ultimately the Wanderers couldn’t escape the Liverpool pressure which was continued to fall upon them, much like the cold rain.
(pic: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
I’ll say that the second half was more enjoyable to watch than the first. Not that Liverpool lacked drive or effort in the first 45, but they seemed to come out of the break intent on killing Bolton off, who were already down two but had shown signs of life before the half. But, Gerrard & Co. soon snuffed that out.
Stevie G should be lauded for his all-around effort today, on both sides of the ball. Not only was he involved in each of the goals, but was just as often found on the other side of the pitch, defending amongst the back four. His rich vein of form continues and it would be silly to suggest it’s mere coincidence that it mirrors the team’s form.
Liverpool haven’t conceded a league goal since the Arsenal game, and have only let one in all competitions (vs. Porto this week) since before November. And they’re just as productive further up the pitch having notched 21 goals in the same time-frame. 21 to 1 — not too shabby.
It would appear that the team is hitting its stride at an opportune time. With a trip to Reading next weekend, Liverpool then have the showdown at Marseille, followed by a visit from United. Of course, there’s the League Cup match at Stamford Bridge after that. But, my confidence is high as the squad continues to sharpen its nails and take its prey apart.
Even Rafa thinks so:
We are much closer now to the top of the table than we have been in recent years and we have a much better squad. We are scoring a lot of goals and I think we can still improve and get even better. We still have the likes of Xabi Alonso, Daniel Agger, Jermaine Pennant, Fabio Aurelio and Steve Finnan to come back and they are all important players for us.
We have a lot of confidence and we need to keep our form going and see if the other teams will make mistakes and drop points. December and January are important months because we have to play a lot of games, but I have confidence in my team and I think we will be stronger in the second half of the season.
One potential worry is Carra’s injury, which could very well be another rib injury. It would almost seem predictable if it were a re-aggravation of the Sunderland injury, but hopefully it isn’t too serious. Knowing Carra, he’ll do his best to play through any pain, but Rafa does have the luxury of resting him at Reading in preparation for United. Besides, Hobbs could use the league experience and it would be best if it were against a team on the wrong side of the table.
I’m not in the business of individual player ratings, but everybody had at least a solid match. I might (albeit, harshly) single Crouchie out for letting himself down on an occasion or two, but he worked hard and even drew a penalty.
And should the Injury Gods chose to smile on Kewell for the remainder of the campaign, I have to put my vote in for he and Yossi on the wings. While I’m quite encouraged by the continued improvement of Babel (another one with a truly bright future) and will welcome Pennant back when fit, I think the Israeli and the Aussie both have the superior physical and mental tools to torture defenders on the outside (and the inside when they cut it in).
(pic: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
And in the interest of not ignoring hard work go unnoticed, it should be pointed out that the defense just recorded its fourth straight league cleansheet. It’s a fact of life that a backline rarely draws the same plaudits as strikers, but Pepe & Co. continue to put the cuffs on opposing teams. Granted, sometimes with a bit of luck, but… *grin*
Otherwise, I’ll save my saliva and try not to drool over another quality match from El Nino. He’s just that dangerous. The pace, the touch, the power, the intelligence — all the markings that suggest we may have ourselves a true gem. Can you imagine what the next few years could have in store as he matures even further?
Hyypia’s header. (and ignore Sarah Jessica Parker — it’s just a quick ad)
Five Questions Answered:
Will Harry Kewell’s reintroduction to the wild continue with a starting spot? Indeed and he made good work of it. He might have been unlucky not to score but his contribution was noted.
Will Nicolas Anelka use another match versus a Big Four opponent to audition for a January transfer? Despite a shocking miss after Carra and Pepe collided, he was by far Bolton’s most dangerous player all match.
Does Lucas continue to find himself included in the matchday squad? The education of the Brazilian continues. Rafa obviously has a great deal of faith in the midfielder, who didn’t put a wrong foot in all day.
Will Diouf spit on anybody? At least not that we could see…
Will the weekend end with the Reds back in Top 4? Sitting third with goal difference!
My thoughts on the match:
- It’s good to see Harry Kewell get a start. Lucas is also handed another one. And, my boy Torres survives the chop.
- Another set-piece goal as Sami isn’t marked tightly as does well to nod Gerrard’s free kick in for an early-ish lead. How productive has the big Finn been lately in front of goal?
- Ivan Campo got grumpy at Harry when the ancient midfielder loses his footing after Kewell closed him down. Riise actually has to give Campo a hug to hold him back.
- Torres went wide after picking off a poor pass and surging into the penalty area. He’s… just… so… dangerous.
- Bolton come close, sending a ball across the goalmouth and for a second, I really thought Arbeloa was going to send it into the back of the net.
- Another huge defensive mistake as Pepe and Carra do their best Keystone Kops routine, colliding at the top of the 18, leaving Anelka with an empty net. How Le Sulk missed, I’ll never know.Liverpool are incredibly lucky. Thanks, Nic.
- A Gerrard through-ball puts El Nino on goal and after taking it to the right corner of six-yard box, he expertly chips the ‘keeper.
- I woke up late so I didn’t have time to brew my coffee before kick-off, so I had to wait until halftime. But, now order in my universe has been restored.
- Crouch flashes a header just wide off a cross from the left. Unlucky.
- Liverpool started the second half with purpose, marauding into Bolton box.
- Kewell picked somebody’s pocket, hit it to Torres, who put it off to Gerrard, who pushed forward and forced Jaaskelainen into a save.
- Carra comes off after 51 minutes. Hopefully, whatever knock he’s got isn’t serious. Jack Hobbs will gain some valuable on-the-job experience.
- Crouchie gets crowded out in the box and draws a penalty, only a minute after a poor touch robbed him of a scoring chance. Gerrard converts yet another penalty.
- Benayoun almost went clean through after taking the ball of a Bolton defender, but instead gets fouled by Campo outside the 18. Riise deployed his laser left foot, but the wall took the abuse.
- **MAN CRUSH ALERT** With ball on foot, Torres made an industrious run from right to left, into the box, only to cut it back to his right foot, lost his defender, but skied the ball just over the bar. This is what I’ve been talking about — each time El Nino receives the ball, something can happen. But beyond that, I appreciate the way he plays off of his teammates. He’s selfish at the right times, not all the time.
- A good run-out for Harry as Ryan Babel replaced him in the 67th minute. We continue to see flashes of what the Aussie can bring to the team.
- Babel loses the ball to a double-team on the edge of the 18, but not after splitting the defenders once. You can see his confidence having risen and his play getting crisper over the past month.
- 77′, Torres off for Kuyt under a blanket of well-earned applause.
- Babel knocked in the ‘keeper’s spill after Jaaskelainen made a save on Kuyt. And the genesis of the whole move? Gerrard, who had his hand in each and every goal today.
- Babel almost grabbed a second after some fine team play from Kuyt and Benayoun, but it was cleared off the line.