Well, the old expression says it’s a game of two halves and that certainly was the case at Anfield today as a lack-lustre first half gave way to a pulsating second period with chances galore for the hosts and a few thrown in for the visitors to-boot.
Brendan Rodgers made a number of changes for this FA Cup Fourth Round tie against fellow Northern Irishman Neil Lennon’s Bolton Wanderers side. Glen Johnson came in to complete a back three along with Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho. Whilst Javi Manquillo and José Enrique were on duty at right and left wing-back respectively. Jordan Henderson was partnered in front of the defence by Joe Allen, returning from injury for the first time since the the Manchester United defeat. Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling made up the front three.
The first half didn’t really have much to right home about in footballing terms although the Wanderers’ physical approach to the match brought a yellow card each for Matt Mills and Dorian Dervite as Sterling and Coutinho were reminded time and again that they were going to be in for a tough evening’s football ahead.
The second half was a completely different affair. Lazar Marković came on at the expense of the ineffective Enrique as Rodgers sought to inject some creativity into his side to overcome the visitor’s stout defending. To be fair Marković made a marked difference and his running and inventive play caused problems for the Wanderers defence. The Reds set up camp in the opposition half but Bulgarian ‘keeper Adam Bogdan was in inspired form and repelled shot after shot at his goal. He wasn’t alone.
Mills was also immense at the back for Wanderers and was continually in the right place at the right time to thwart the Liverpool attacks. Alongside Dervitte, the pair stood firm against all the Reds could throw at them. Full credit has to go to Lennon for the organisation and heart his charges displayed this evening.
Old anfield favourite Emile Heskey was kept largely in check by the home side back three. But then at the grand “old” age of 37 he should be. The former Anfield striker left the field on 56 minutes complaining of needing the loo (joke!). I think it was a bit of a hamstring strain but in any case, he was thoroughly deserving of the standing ovation afforded to him by the home crowd. Not the standing ovulation my spell-check helped me put on Twitter during the game!
Despite their endeavour Liverpool were still getting pressured on the counter by their visitors and on 67 minutes Lucas Leiva was introduced along with Fabio Borini in place of Joe Allen and Javi Manquillo respectively. Despite the reinforcements Rodgers’ men failed to make the breakthrough and now a replay awaits at the Macron Stadium in a couple of weeks. In fairness to Bolton, it’s no less than they deserve for their efforts and resiliance.
On the whole, I think Liverpool can feel aggrieved for not tying this game up because they certainly had enough chances. The back three is now performing as one would expect and I was cautiously pleased with Johnson’s performance within the three. The team doesn’t look as ropey in defence these days and even Simon Mignolet is looking somewhat more assured that the butter-fingered version we had earlier in the season.
I heard a stat that should Liverpool progress to the final of the FA Cup, Europa League and the Carling Cup, then they’ll notch up around 64 games this season. This would be almost 20 or so more than they played last season. In order to meet these demands, Rodgers needs to recruit a striker in order to meet the possible demands ahead this season.
However, having said that, if he doesn’t get a striker, it’s unlikely the team will get the goals to take them to the heady heights I’ve described above. Daniel Sturridge should be back soon and provided he’s actually recovered sufficiently then his presence will be a massive boost for the club, the fans and most importantly, the team. The way things are going in the transfer market this month, I don’t see any new players of suitable repute coming to the club.
Next up is Chelsea away in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final and it will tae a mammoth performance from the Reds to make it to the final. However, the way they’ve been playing of late, you just never know. There’s life in this lot yet.
The LFC File Man of The Match: Adam Bogdan
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen