02 December 2007

Liverpool 4-0 Bolton

Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Riise
Benayoun Lucas Gerrard Kewell
Torres Crouch

Hyypia 17’
Torres 45’
Gerrard 56’ (pen)
Babel 85’

I’d like to thank the media, and possibly the owners (we still haven’t heard the full story) for catalyzing the team, staff, and fans. Liverpool’s now won the last 5 games by a margin of 21 to 1.

Liverpool deployed an attacking line-up, and began the game accordingly. They could have been up 1-0 within 5 minutes, with Michalik clearing Crouch’s shot off the line, but Bolton also could have had one of their own within 10.

The opener arrived after 17 minutes, with Hyypia deftly heading home Gerrard’s free kick, but a second wasn’t coming right away despite sustained pressure. 30 minutes in, and Liverpool started to suffer from some of the same doldrums as those against Porto, and Bolton should have been level after 38. Anelka was through after Carragher and Reina collided at the top of the box, only to send his shot into the side netting. It was a horrific miss, and was also the last real chance Bolton would get.

Torres made certain of the result on the stroke of halftime, his fourth in four games. An inch-perfect Gerrard throughball sent him in on the right, and his chip over Jaaskelainen iced the match. At 1-0, there was always a doubt, but it would have taken a lot for Bolton to overcome a 2-0 deficit at Anfield with the form Liverpool’s in.

10 minutes after the restart, Crouch won a penalty that Gerrard converted (taking his scoring streak to 8 in 9), which completely killed off the game. Liverpool continued to create chances, but took the foot off the gas. The introduction of Babel returned some impetus, with the super sub (4 of his 5 goals have come off the bench) netting in the 85th with a rebound from Kuyt’s effort, and unlucky not to get a second, having his effort cleared off the line by Meite minutes later.

Despite the scoreline, it was typical Bolton until Liverpool’s third. They were physical and kept themselves in the game. Had Anelka scored, it could have been a completely different story. Of course, it could have been even worse for Bolton had Diouf been rightfully sent off for his tackle on Arbeloa earlier on. But the point is that it’s a credit to the strides Liverpool has made that they dispatched the opposition as comprehensively as they did today. Bolton under Megson is a different proposition than under Sammy Lee, and I feel fairly confident in saying that they’ll avoid relegation.

That Jamie Carragher went off in the 51st minute clutching his ribs (the second time this season he’s been injured in a collision with Reina) takes a bit of the gloss off the result, but hopefully it was very precautionary with Liverpool in control, and it was good to see Hobbs get time with the first team, although Bolton rarely threatened.

As Liverpool was so dominant, there’s little to complain about in the player’s performances. Once again, Gerrard’s proved his quality; he’s been unstoppable of late. Absolutely unstoppable. Yes, a couple of his goals have come from penalties, but the rest of his game is there as well. With Lucas (who continues to play above his age, and was again very good today) in the team, Gerrard sat deeper in a role similar to Alonso’s and clearly relished it. He had a hand in all of Liverpool’s goals, and it’s no exaggeration when I say his pass to Torres for the 2nd was perfect.

Crouch and Torres, two strikers who like to lead the line, finally got their first start together in the league, and we weren’t disappointed. Torres again showed his quality with his goal, and should have scored more, with his pace and movement threatening Bolton’s back four time and time again. Crouch was unlucky not to score, with a shot cleared off the line and a couple of free headers off target, but he made intelligent runs to create space for Torres, and the pairing shows promise.

Both Kewell and Benayoun were active and threatening on the wings, cutting in and staying wide. I know I keep saying it, but Kewell’s return to fitness will greatly improve Liverpool. He’s not quite there yet, but he looks to take his man on and looks to stretch the field, but still has the ability to cut inside and shoot. Plus, Babel for Kewell is a natural substitution, and we’ve seen how good Babel is off the bench, especially when the team’s ahead. His pace is unnatural, but there are times he needs to be even more direct, and he’s clearly still learning.

Arbeloa and Riise did well in supporting them from defense, but I still can’t help but thinking that Riise is too wasteful in possession offensively. Don’t get me wrong though; he did a lot of things right today, and his ability going forward kept Kevin Davies playing farther back than he wanted to.

It has been good times on the pitch of late. There’s little that needs to be said about a team that’s won their last five 8-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-1, and 4-0, while (gasp!) still rotating. You can say it’s been against weaker opposition, but Porto are no mugs, there are no easy away games, and Bolton is a team that beat Manchester United last week. It’s of little use thinking of them as the relegation strugglers they were a couple of months back, despite the fact heads clearly dropped after Liverpool’s third.

But there are harder games to come: a trip to Reading, which can’t be overlooked, before Marseille and Manchester United. It’s an excellent time to be hitting this form, but it’s even more imperative that it continues.

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