Monday, 1 November 2010

Maxi late show seals win for Reds

A late toe-poked finish from Maxi Rodriguez at Bolton's Reebok Stadium yesterday evening not only earned Liverpool their first away win of the season, but also ended Roy Hodgson's personal 442 day record without a victory away from home.

Whilst last Sunday's 2-1 victory over Bolton's Lancastrian rivals Blackburn Rovers displayed the attacking potential within Liverpool's ranks, this weekend's triumph emphasised the defensive grit and determination in this Liverpool side as they ground out a vital victory.

This wasn't the case during the opening stages though, as Liverpool controlled the play and created the first few opportunities of the match.

After four minutes Torres directed Gerrard's corner just over the bar at the near post, before the dynamic duo linked up again moments later to send the Spaniard clear on goal. Unfortunately, Torres took one touch too many and eventually stabbed his disappointing effort way wide of the target.

When fit and firing Torres would have smashed that first time into the back of the net, but the recent barren spell he has experienced has left Liverpool's first choice striker bereft of confidence. Torres' obvious lack of confidence is a major reason contributing to our paltry record of only 10 goals in 10 games.

Torres was put through on goal once again six minutes later, this time thanks to a wonderful defence-splitting pass from Maxi Rodriguez. Great anticipation from Juusi Jaaskelainen denied Torres though, as the Bolton keeper did well to rush out of his box to clear the imminent danger.

Bolton responded mid-way through the half and began to pose a threat to the Liverpool goal. Steinsson's low shot was blocked by Kyrgiakos before Holden's fantastic, thumped effort on the volley called Reina into action as the Spain keeper beat the ball away.

The home side were suddenly asking questions of our defence, whilst the visitors struggled to either fashion or take advantage of the few chances that were created.

Cole arced a shot well wide of goal and Gerrard embarrassingly miscued his strike off target after a rare moment of flowing football and attacking inventiveness, however our good start had turned sour as the game became scrappy, much to the benefit of Owen Coyle's men.

Matt Taylor fizzed the ball goalwards twice during the closing stages of the half, but Reina managed to stop him on both occasions and the sides went in level at the break.

Although Roy would have been pleased by his team's defensive solidity, he must have been looking for more forward thinking football and incisive attacking play during the second 45 minutes, as Liverpool's first half efforts had failed to seriously worry the Bolton backline or test their Finnish keeper.

Despite of this Bolton were quicker out of the traps and pressurised our defence early on in the first half, with both Lucas and especially Konchesky needed to make timely tackles to deny Fabrice Muamba and Kevin Davies respectively.

Liverpool's only sight of goal before the hour mark came when England defender Gary Cahill blocked a shot from Fernando Torres, who continued to search for that elusive goal but evidently became increasingly frustrated as the match wore on.

In fact, Liverpool surprisingly possessed a greater attacking threat once energetic French striker David Ngog had replaced the hamstrung Joe Cole. Torres' deflected effort was well saved by Jaaskelainen before the Spaniard held the ball up and fed Meireles down the right wing.

The clean-shaven midfielder then clipped a ball to the back post, where a Bolton head denied Maxi a golden sight of goal. From the resulting corner Kyrgiakos provided yet more evidence of his prowess in the attacking third, as the Greek flashed a header just over the bar.

The Reds then survived a feeble penalty shout when Davies went to ground under the challenge of Kyrgiakos, before we completed our best move of the match with 20 minutes left to play.

Liverpool surged forward with Torres intelligently nodding Gerrard's cross to the feet of Maxi, who smashed an acrobatic effort inches over the bar from the edge of the box. It was a tremendous attempt from the Argentine and good build up play as well, however Liverpool were still left looking for a late winner to claim all three points.

Bolton hit back and had two good chances to secure a win themselves as Elmander shot inches wide before Davies went perilously close to giving the home side the lead on 76 minutes.

Taylor whipped a threatening ball into the six-yard box and the England striker was a whisker away from finding the net as his skimmed header almost crept in at the back post.

With the game seemingly petering out to a dull draw Liverpool stole a sensational winner four minutes from time. Torres instinctively and expertly flicked Lucas’ incisive pass through the legs of Cahill and into the path of Maxi. His scuffed shot found the back of the net after deflecting in off the legs of Jaaskelainen.

Although the finish was scruffy nobody cared as the well worked move and resulting goal secured our second victory on the trot, moving us out of the relegation zone and into 12th place, a mere three points behind Tottenham Hotspur in fifth and only five points off Manchester City in fourth.

Considering Liverpool's formidable recent record in this fixture (we had emerged victorious after the previous seven games against the Wanderers) this would ordinarily be viewed as a routine win.

However, thanks to our form on the road and Bolton's unbeaten home record this season, our second victory on the spin was greeted by mass euphoria from the travelling contingent of Reds who have endured far too many miserable away days throughout the past two seasons.

While we certainly weren't anywhere near top form yesterday, a clean sheet and away victory are opportune confidence boosters ahead of Chelsea's visit to Anfield next Sunday.

It will certainly be Hodgson's biggest test during his brief time as Liverpool manager, and, despite our recent upturn, any points secured from that match must be seen as a massive bonus. Both the grit displayed against Bolton and the flair shown versus Blackburn will be needed if we are to take anything from that clash.

Here's hoping that Hodgson can prove his side have turned a corner by claiming a serious scalp in the form of Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea next weekend.


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