Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bolton Wanderers 3-1 Liverpool: Lacklustre Reds Blown Away by Wanderers


A lacklustre Liverpool were blown away by Bolton Wanderers in blustery conditions at The Reebok Stadium.


Owen Coyle's struggling side more than deserved a welcome three points as they outplayed, outmanoeuvred and outfought a below-par Liverpool, who produced one of their worst displays since Kenny Dalglish returned to the club more than 12 months ago.

Following a disappointing 0-0 home draw with Stoke City last weekend, Dalglish made four changes to his starting eleven, with fit-again Daniel Agger returning along with Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll. But, if the Scot thought the changes would freshen up his side, he was to be mistaken.

With the worst home record in all four of England's top divisions, Bolton were expected to find life difficult again. But, to their credit, Wanderers immediately took the game to the Reds, a tactic which was rewarded after only 4 minutes.

A clever flick from former Reds' striker David Ngog found Mark Davies free 35 yards out. The midfield schemer was able to advance unchallenged into the visitors' box before calmly slotting the ball past Pepe Reina.

Minutes later, Chris Eagles dispossessed the day-dreaming Jose Enrique and brilliantly wriggled his way into the box, before prodding a cross-cum-shot past the far post.

Shell-shocked by the home team's start, Liverpool struggled to get a foothold in the game, with passes consistently going astray. Just before the half-hour mark, they had an appeal for a penalty turned down when the ball appeared to strike the hand of Bolton centre-half Zat Knight, but 60 seconds later, they were picking the ball out of their own net again.

Once again the Liverpool marking was non-existent as Eagles was able to break into the box and find Bolton skipper Nigel Reo-Coker, who chested down and finished from close range.

Finding themselves 2-0 down, the Reds finally showed some flashes of interest. Bellamy's pace and directness caused problems as he got round the back of the Bolton defence a couple of times, before Carroll's clever pass set the Welshman away, only to fire straight at keeper Adam Bogdan.

On 37 minutes though, the same combination combined to halve the deficit. Carroll rose highest to flick on for Bellamy to outstrip the defence then coolly despatch past Bogdan.

After a torrid first-half, the fact that the Reds only found themselves a goal down was enough to expect a second-half improvement. But within five minutes of the restart, Bolton restored their two-goal lead and effectively killed off the game.

Martin Petrov's out-swinging corner led to David Wheater out-jumping the ineffective Liverpool defence, allowing full-back Gretar Steinsson to superbly volley into the corner to give Bolton their first 3-goal haul against the Reds since 1950.

Disgusted with his side's performance, Dalglish made changes with the disappointing Maxi and Adam replaced by Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt. Downing did tee up Carroll, who summed up his Liverpool career to date by failing to connect with a left-foot shot, but, apart from a 30-yard Agger shot which struck the bar, the Reds failed to exert any real pressure on the opposition goal.

The win was only Bolton's third home success of the season and moves the Trotters' out of the relegation zone. For Liverpool, with top-four rivals Chelsea and Newcastle United both dropping points earlier in the day, this was another missed opportunity. The Reds now face a daunting few weeks, hosting both Manchester sides in the Cup competitions this week, whilst also playing United, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton in the league before the end of February.

After a performance lacking in quality, and most worryingly effort and endeavour, Dalglish will be looking for his team to make amends quickly.

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