Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bolton 0-2 Liverpool

Liverpool's Premier League title challenge gathered further momentum with an impressive victory at Bolton.
Dirk Kuyt brilliantly headed the visitors in front from Fabio Aurelio's cross after 28 minutes.
Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard both missed open goals before captain Gerrard headed in substitute Fernando Torres' cross with 18 minutes left.
Bolton's Gary Cahill had a header ruled out for a foul and Ricardo Gardner missed two good opportunities.
The win ensured Liverpool maintained the pressure on their rivals as they seek their first title since 1990.
Bolton were outplayed for long stretches, but mounted a spirited effort after the break, only for any hope of a comeback to be snuffed out by Gerrard's close range header.
Liverpool kept Torres on the bench as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury but he emerged for the last 30 minutes to great effect.
All the other big guns were restored after a weakened side lost in the Carling Cup at Spurs in midweek.
The opening half was a tale of almost unbroken Liverpool domination, with Bolton restricted to isolated attacks.
Kuyt almost gave Rafael Benitez's side the lead after 21 minutes when his powerful rising drive from Gerrard's pass struck the bar with Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen helpless.
He had better luck seven minutes later when he crowned a lengthy period of Liverpool possession by directing a superb header past Jaaskelainen from Aurelio's cross.
Keane should have doubled Liverpool's advantage almost instantly when he somehow failed to make contact with Kuyt's inviting cross from only four yards with the goal gaping in front of him.
The lingering fear for Liverpool was that their failure to score a second goal would leave the door open for a Bolton side that had been distinctly second best.
And they were almost punished on the stroke of half-time when Cahill headed in from a corner, only for referee Rob Styles to rule that goalkeeper Pepe Reina had been fouled.
It was a decision that infuriated the home crowd, who had clearly not forgiven Styles for the infamous penalty he gave against Bolton at Manchester United earlier this season.
Bolton boss Gary Megson made a change at half-time, introducing Gardner in place of Fabrice Muamba - who had been detailed to do a man-marking job on Liverpool captain Gerrard.
Gardner made an immediate impact and almost levelled after 51 minutes when he ran on to Kevin Davies' pass, but slipped after rounding Reina and the chance was lost.
There was a much more passion and purpose from Bolton after the break, but it was Liverpool who wasted another gilt-edged chance to score just after the hour.
Torres was the creator, seconds after being introduced, with a perfect cross that Gerrard somehow slid wide.
But there was no mistake after 73 minutes, when the Spanish international produced a perfect delivery with the outside of his right foot for Gerrard to steal in and head past Jaaskelainen.
Liverpool were suddenly restored to the dominant force of the first half and Jaaskelainen had to be at his acrobatic best to save a 25-yard effort from Xabi Alonso with 10 minutes left.
Gardner had been a lively presence since his introduction, but he wasted another chance by lofting a finish over the onrushing Reina but off target.
Liverpool had further opportunities to finish with a flourish, but Torres hit the outside of an upright and substitute Lucas headed wide when it seemed easier to score.
Their generosity in front of goal did not prove costly, as Liverpool cruised to a deserved three points.
Bolton boss Gary Megson: "We didn't get in their faces in the first half.
"In the second-half we did much better but we made a couple of elementary mistakes and you have huge problems at 2-0 down against a team like that.
"We gave everything we got, missed two fantastic chances, had a goal disallowed that shouldn't have been but we were culpable for both their goals."
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez: "We knew it would be difficult but we tried to keep the ball.
"We were under pressure so that goal was very crucial for us. After that, the game was over.
"We had two or three clear chances in the first half and at the end we could have had a couple more, but the second goal was the key."
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Andrew O'Brien, Samuel, Taylor (Smolarek 84), Nolan, Muamba (Gardner 46), McCann, Elmander, Davies.
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Helguson, Shittu, Basham, Obadeyi.
Booked: Nolan.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt (Leiva Lucas 84), Gerrard, Riera (Benayoun 89), Keane (Torres 59).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Babel, Darby.
Booked: Carragher.
Goals: Kuyt 28, Gerrard 73.
Att: 24,893
Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).

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