Maybe I should miss matches more often.
Considering the game was scoreless at halftime, maybe the result seems to flatter Liverpool, but this was probably the best league performance since the 3-1 win against Villa. It took time to establish the pace and tempo and come to grips with a Bolton side that would have been content with a 0-0 draw, but once Liverpool got going, there was no looking back.
The first goal was created by the two stars of the match, Kuyt and Pennant. Great work by Kuyt, who hustled around and through defenders, gave him space to find Pennant on the right, who crossed for Crouch to create a carbon copy of his Galatasaray goal. It was a delightful finish for a player low on confidence and without a league goal since October, and maybe Crouch should go for the overhead kick more often. I don’t know how a 6’7” striker is better at bicycle kicks than headers, but that’s Crouchinho.
Seconds after the restart, the two were at it again. Pennant, after intercepting, played a one-two with Kuyt, who again found open space and crossed brilliantly for Gerrard, storming into the box, to side-foot an outstanding volley between two defenders. Both strikes were absolutely sublime, but the vision and intelligence by Pennant and Kuyt to set them up was simply superb, and something that hadn’t been coming off as hoped. Jaaskelainen, who was easily Bolton’s best player having made a number of good saves to keep them in it, could do little about either, and it was the play to set up the goals just as much as the strikes themselves that saw Liverpool take the lead.
Soon after, Bolton was lucky not to be down to 10 men. Graham Poll, whose referring (as usual) was confusing at best, didn’t send Abdoulaye Faye off despite the fact he managed to ring up three offenses at once. He followed up his foul on Crouch by chest-bumping Poll and then kicking the ball away while Poll was getting his card out. Petulant and stupid. The commentators attempted to pass it off as sensible referring due to Bolton having just gone 2-0 down in a matter of minutes, but the fact remains Faye should have been off, no questions asked. It doesn't matter how frustrated he was, and it shouldn't matter how well Bolton was doing.
In the 83rd minute, Garcia cleverly released Kuyt, who was playing off the shoulder of the last defender, to completely finish off the game. It was the goal that Kuyt's performance merited, capping off Liverpool's day and hopefully setting the tone for the new year. It’s always great to beat Bolton, another of Liverpool’s bogey teams, but to beat them 3-0, especially after the game at the Reebok earlier in the season, was welcomed to say the least.
Great crossing and increased width won this game for Liverpool, and it’s why Pennant’s my man of the match, even though it’s incredibly hard to argue against Kuyt’s contribution. Pennant has been slated far too often for someone who’s just joined the team (despite the fact Pennant’s familiar with the league, it still takes time for a player to settle into a new side), and while his crossing was what Liverpool had hoped for when signing him, it was his vision and intelligence that set him apart today. He picked out the right option nine times out of ten, made very smart runs off the ball to open up space, and fully utilized the width of the pitch on the right. If he keeps this up, £6 million will look a bargain.
This makes 27 games at Anfield in the league without a loss, something that hasn’t been done since 1981. A true test comes in the next home league outing, when Liverpool will host Chelsea. Benitez has never beaten the Blues in the league, and we’ll see how good Liverpool can be against the best of the best, as true title contenders needed to take points off of teams like Chelsea and United, which Liverpool has had trouble doing. First though, two matches against Arsenal (also at Anfield) in the Carling and FA Cups and Watford away.
Roll on Gunners.