Sunday, 31 October 2010

Bolton 0 Liverpool 1: Roy's boys rely on Maxi factor as Rodriguez goes from zero to shock hero



Maxi-mum output: Liverpool's Maxi Rodriguez latched onto Fernando Torres' cute through ball to earn all three points

Had he not secured the points that propelled Liverpool six places up the Barclays Premier League table, Maxi Rodriguez might well have been among those Roy Hodgson would have wanted to strangle at the end of this game.

Fernando Torres would have been at the top of his hit-list, such was the ineptitude with which he performed prior to delivering what was a delightful back-heel into the path of the advancing Rodriguez in the 86th minute. But neither of them appeared to appreciate what was at stake at The Reebok on Sunday.

The fact that a team with Champions League aspirations was sitting among the relegation places after nine games. The fact that Hodgson was under tremendous pressure, not least because John W Henry is due back in town this week ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash with Napoli and a difficult encounter with Chelsea on Sunday.

Hodgson was exasperated in the technical area, almost spontaneously combusting minutes before the goal in response to the sight of Torres squandering another chance. No wonder he celebrated in the manner that he did when Rodriguez struck, jumping for joy, such was his relief. It was his first away win in the league since guiding Fulham’s triumph at Portsmouth on the opening day of last season.

Late escape: Maxi Rodriguez celebrates his dramatic late winner for Liverpool at the Reebok Stadium

Yet the problems remain and they could certainly be exposed by Carlo Ancelotti’s classy champions. Liverpool are still a team undermined by apathy and mediocrity, and are being carried, as far as they can be carried, by a few players who still seem to care.

Jamie Carragher is among those who do and his reaction served as a barometer of where Liverpool really are.

‘We’ll see if the confidence comes back in the next couple of weeks,’ he said. ‘It’s a win and while we played well against Blackburn, we did not perform so well here.’

It is hard to imagine him sounding more underwhelmed and understandably so when colleagues of the quality of Torres are performing like this. The Spaniard has had his problems with injury, yet so apparent is the loss of his explosive pace you have to wonder if he is still worth the investment clubs like Chelsea, United and City might be prepared to make.

But on this evidence there is an attitude problem as well, and that is so disappointing given how committed he has been in the past. He seems to be sulking, and that is the last thing Hodgson needs from a player who, three years ago, was among the finest strikers in the world.

Up for it: The goal aside, there was lots of huff and puff but precious little quality at the Reebok

Not that Hodgson seemed particularly worried. He was not convincing when he insisted we would soon see the best of Torres again, but far more important to him was his team’s position in the league. It was only in September that Hodgson asked to be judged at this point in the season.

‘I think tables are of no interest until at least 10 games have been played,’ he said. ‘Then you start looking to see how big a gap there is between yourself and the top teams, or between yourself and the bottom teams.’

This morning there is a bit of daylight on either side, but it’s a far healthier position when the boss is flying in to have a chat, and Hodgson knows that.

He brought a beaming smile into the post-match press conference and no wonder after the problems he has had since taking charge. He will know his team were a little lucky.

That players as determined as Gary Cahill and Kevin Davies did not deserve to lose. That it was through Cahill’s legs that the ball from Torres travelled was all the more unfair, given how impressive the English centre half had been prior to that.

Trouble mounting: Liverpool's Joe Cole was forced off early in the second half with a hamstring injury

Looking for something? Roy Hodgson got whatever it was he prayed for when Maxi popped up late on

A contender for man of the match but someone, in the end, who just lost out to his contemporaries in red.

Bolton had lost once in the league prior to Sunday and it was easy to see why. They are superbly organised under Owen Coyle, who must be the only man who wears shorts and a T-shirt in Lancashire in late October, but they play some decent football, too.

They even had two reasonable calls for a penalty, when Carragher seemed to block a cross with his arm and Sotirios Kyrgiakos appeared to push Davies.

There were chances for both teams in what was an entertaining first half.

Torres squandered the best of Liverpool’s and Pepe Reina excelled in denying Matt Taylor and the excellent Stuart Holden. Jussi Jaaskelainen did well to deny Kyrgiakos, and so left Liverpool as the only team - other than Stoke - yet to secure a first-half lead in the Premier League this season.

The sight of Joe Cole limping off with a hamstring injury merely enhanced Liverpool’s chances of success. He was dreadful again.

But it was Bolton who threatened most as this contest progressed towards its conclusion, and Bolton who were left crushed when Torres guided a pass from Lucas into the path of Rodriguez and then saw the winger’s shot beat Jaaskelainen.

A shot that is sure to have spared the scorer the wrath of his manager.

source: dailymail

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