Rafa shuffles the back again and presents the following line-up: Reina, Carra, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Kuyt, Mascherano, Aquilani, Riera, Gerrard and Ngog in a 4-2-3-1 formation. On the bench: Cavalieri, Pacheco, Darby, Babel, Maxi, Lucas and Agger. Referee today was Steve Bennett and Tom Hicks was present for the game too.
Kevin Davies started hostilities with the annoying decision of choosing the Kop half of the ground for the first period despite Gerrard’s insistence. There was a tangible anticipation of what the Davies/Kyrgiakos battle would be like. First chance fell to Bolton with Cohen coming face to face with Reina who blocked the attempt.
From the first minute it seemed evident that Owen Coyle had adopted a man to man marking system from the midfield up. Ngog however, was lively from minute one attempting to hassle the Bolton centre-backs at every opportunity. After settling in the game, the Reds took the initiative and pinned Bolton back in their half.
Mark Davies yellow carded for encroachment/handball on minute 12. The Reds continued to control the match through the 20th minute, with Bolton rarely foraying over the half way line. However, the Reds did not manage a real chance at goal in this period. We were getting closer and closer, but not close enough.
On 23rd minute Bolton break with Lee and who beats both Skrtel and Reina but Kyrgiakos saves miraculously on the goal line. A second clear chance for the Wanderers, and a huge scare for the Anfield crowd!
Mascherano then renewed his acquaintance with Mr Bennett receiving a booking for a late tackle on Mark Davies. However, the argentine was ruling the midfield unchallenged. The game was lively and entertaining and the Reds were trying to move the ball around quickly. This was not the Molineux potato field so most of the Reds passing was effective bar Bolton’s continuous running at the ball to disturb Liverpool’s flowing game.
By the 34th minute the corner count was pending heavily towards the Reds, yet Bolton defended effectively and diligently.
On 36th minute a brilliant move by Riera, Insua, Aquilani and Kuyt put the Reds in deservedly in the lead. Aquilani did something that neither Lucas nor Mascherano would ever be capable of by pulling the ball back in front of the Bolton goal, giving the Dutchman the golden opportunity to put the Reds in front.
Bolton’s response was timid and Liverpool still controlled the majority of the game. On 43rd Lee was booked for blatantly diving on an Aquilani challenge in the penalty area. Good refereeing by Mr Bennett. Bolton closed the half on the attack and the Reds seemed to want to defend the lead at least up until half-time. Four minutes were added and although Bolton were not dangerous, they remained on the attack for a sustained period. First half over and the Reds go in for their cuppa 1-0 up front.
Notwithstanding two clear cut chances for Bolton, the Reds deserved to go up front for the general domination of the first 49 minutes creating chance after chance in the Bolton area but only being very dangerous on a couple of occasions. Great performances from Kyrgiakos and Aquilani in the first 45 minutes, but apart from some shaky defending from Skrtel, we can safely say that the Reds made a positive start to the game.
Bolton started the second period with a positive outlook and going on to attack the Kop side of Anfield. This attitude promised to give the Reds some more open spaces. The first five minutes however, saw the Reds on the back foot and Bolton taking the initiative. This momentum was broken with a lovely run by Riera who found Gerrard on the other side of the field with deadly precision and the Liverpool captain loosing the one-on-one challenge with the Bolton defended winning a corner.
On 52nd minute another foray by Riera on the left, crossed over to Gerrard who went for goal from the penalty spot and from the rebound Ngog headed on the crossbar. Missed chance for Liverpool to create a cushion between them and Bolton. Riera had another crack at goal moments later. The Spanish winger seemed definitely the livelier of the Reds in the opening of the second half, and certainly the most dangerous.
On 60th minute, Tamir Cohen came off for Riccardo Gardner. Aquilani nicks a ball on 62nd freeing Gerrard to fire a venomous strike towards the Bolton goal which Jaskalaanen saved. The Reds seemed again on the front foot and in control of proceedings.
On 65th minute, Aquilani is taken off for Lucas, while Bolton brought on Vladimir Weiss (on load from Man City) for Taylor. One minute later Insua made an incursion in the Bolton area from which Ngog won a corner. Bolton definitely feeling the heat!
On 69th minute Insua let fly from outside the box, the shot was heavily deflected by Kevin Davies (payback time!) and into the Bolton net. 2-0 for the Reds and the Anfield crowd started breathing easier. The ball was on its way out but credit to Lucas who pulled it back in for the Frenchman who laid it on for the pocket Argentinean to strike at the Bolton goal.
On 74th minute Maxi Rodriguez was given another chance to hone his Premier League pace by replacing and excellent Albert Riera. The Argentinean made for a straight swap which showed his versatility to be used across the attacking front.
The Reds carried more confidence after the second goal, as the score-line made for a more relaxed stance. Patrice Muamba was replaced by Swedish forward Elmander on 77th giving Bolton added attacking impetus. The Reds still chased every ball in an effort to prevent the visitors from creating play.
On 83rd Babel was on for David Ngog who put in a very good performance and was unlucky not to prize himself with a goal. Babel, the eternal Liverpool promise given about 10 minutes to shine and put himself on show.
Zat Knight wrestled Gerrad to the ground on 85th earning himself a yellow card. Stevie was a much improved version of himself in this match. Definitely on the mend. One minute later Gerrard again brought to the ground outside the penalty area by Elmander. The subsequent freekick saw the captain pick Lucas in the six-yard box and the brazilian missed a clear headed chance. Liverpool still on the front foot.
On 89th a complex Liverpool attack resulted in a cross which could have ultimately given Maxi his first Liverpool goal. Very unlucky!
Three added minutes given by the officials with the Reds still in attack on the prowl for a third goal. The Reds were shooting at goal from all angles and with all the players that had the opportunity.
Positive performance by the Reds. Sixth consecutive game in the PL without defeat and third consecutive clean sheet. We saw Steven Gerrard finally coming back to the player we know and love so much, and this was perhaps the most positive aspect of the match. Three points in the bag and again one point behind Spurs who drew away to Birmingham. Villa still on the chase with an impressive 0-2 victory at Fulham.
Next up Everton at Anfield!!!!!