Crucial Clash of Today's Game?
It is not often that Liverpool FC visits the Reebok Stadium to face Bolton Wanders while being below their hosts in the Premier League Table.
However, that is exactly what Roy Hodgson's Liverpool team does today. Taking the short trip from Liverpool to Bolton, the Reds find themselves still in the relegation zone, eight places below their opponents.
The only consolation for Hodgson is that getting a win and three points would see Liverpool climb out of the bottom three. Yet they would still not leap-frog today's hosts. Because of a dismal goal differential, the Reds would rise up only into the mid-table.
But Liverpool does come into the game on the back of a desperately needed win last week against Blackburn Rovers and a far more encouraging performance. This win was attributed to the Liverpool manager finally shuffling his pack into a more balanced hand, with the correct players playing in their appropriate positions.
Since this game is on the road, Hodgson needs to maintain this formation going into this game and not go back into his defensive shell.
Arguably, the one player that did not perform as well as some of the others was Joe Cole. Although he did gain an assist from a cross to Fernando Torres for his goal, Cole was a peripheral figure for a lot of the game.
To really get the most out of his mercurial talent, Cole must play behind Torres, letting captain Steven Gerrard slip into midfield. This would in no way curb his attacking instincts but allow him to ghost into the box on occasions and more importantly to control the midfield.
Raul Meireles was a revelation in the center of midfield. He was a completely changed player to when he was played out of position on the flank. Liverpool fans got to see what he could do last week and they hope that Hodgson has learned his lesson.
What a formidable midfield partnership Gerrard and Meireles could make!
On defense, it is likely that goal hero and defensive rock Sotirios Kyrgiakos will retain his place. Bolton will pump balls into the box as Blackburn did, and the big Greek is our best defense in these sorts of attacks.
The fullback positions are the problems for Liverpool. With Glen Johnson in doubt and Daniel Agger likely to be out, it is likely that Jamie Carragher will once again fill in at right back.
On attack, fans hope that Torres' goal last week can be a springboard that launches his season. Certainly, the Spaniard looked a lot more lively and interested in the game last time out, and if given the service he should deliver.
Liverpool must build on last week's encouraging display and three points must be earned once again. But against a tough and battling Bolton, led no doubt by Kevin Davies, any victory will be hard fought.
Roy Hodgson cannot afford anything less than a win again, or the wolves will be back closer to his door come the final whistle.
Reina came up with saves and catches when called upon today
5 of 10
When called up Pepe Reina was there for Liverpool with some good shot stopping and good commanding takes from crosses and set pieces.
Distribution was unusually poor at times with throws and kicks going to Bolton players or put his own players under pressure.
Could be some of the speculation surrounding his future was there in the back of his mind but Reina was not really stretched today.
But a clean sheet is what all goalkeepers want from a game and that he got.
Jamie Carragher not really enjoying his time at right back.
5 of 10
Jamie Carragher really does cherish this position of right back and must be sending Glen Johnson get well cards everyday.
Full backs need pace and, through no fault of his own, Carragher is not bless with this. His reliance on his reading of the game is better suited when he plays at centre back hence he does get caught at time when in this role.
Roy Hodgson is not a strong enough character to drop Carragher to the bench when he cannot play him at his preferred and more effective position in central defense. A more forceful manager would play one of Liverpool's young full backs while Johnson is out.
Carragher has not come up against a top class left sided midfielder yet, when playing at right back, but when he does it may be more torrid time than he had today.
Average performance from a now poor right back.
4 of 10
Paul Konchesky is just not a player of the standard the should be at Liverpool Football Club, but this is the level that Roy Hodgson wishes to bring in. Fans would rather have seen no one being bought in than sub-standard players.
Again, fullback require pace to be effective and Konchesky is as short on it as Carragher is.
However, he did show some useful moments when overlapping and sending in some dangerous crosses.
But still not a player that the fans have warmed too since his arrival from Fulham and unless he begins to put in some better displays will always been seen as a Hodgson safe buy from his former club.
Effective if not spectacular
5 of 10
Martin Skrtel had a strong game in the centre of the defense. A few pundits have written that his season has been below par, but he has been one of the very few positives so far.
He was again tough in the tackle and strong in the air this afternoon and nullified the threat from the forward line of Bolton well.
As in other games this campaign, Skrtel was effective and efficient but far from spectacular.
Average...if not slightly above.
The giant Greek was Liverpool's best defender again today
6 of 10
Sotirios Krygiakos has been Liverpool's best defender in the last few games and this game was no exception. Once again the giant Greek defender was solid in the air and a real goal threat for Liverpool at set pieces and corners.
Had a great chance to make it three goals in four games in the 65 min when headed just over from a Steven Gerrard corner.
The veteran defender's tussle with Bolton captain Kevin Davies was the central battle of the match. The Liverpool defender gave as good as he got and in the end probably came out on top with the clean sheet to his name.
Krygiakos has been dominant in previous games as the opponents have been those that play the game with a high emphasis on the physical side, and the Greek defender can hold his ground against most in the league when asked to play that game.
Liverpool's best defender again this afternoon with an above average performance
Another lay off for Cole?
5 of 10
Joe Cole was again frustrated and frustrating this afternoon. This player has so much skill and creativity that it is almost unfair to others. But he has yet to even come close to tapping into a fraction of it under Roy Hodgson.
Again, Cole was asked to operate out on the left flank, where he does not want to be. But he did show some nice movement in form there when on the ball. Once again all his best work is done when he drifts in.
The talented midfielder would love to get the chance to play behind Torres, something he voiced he really wanted to come to Liverpool to do.
However, as the game wore on, he did begin to show up more. But that has more to do with the game getting stretched and Cole drifting in looking for more of the ball.
Hodgson and fans will be hoping his hamstring injury and subsequent withdrawal from the game after 60 minutes was precautionary and not too serious.
Cole must be itching for his stuttering Liverpool career to final show signs of consistency, but he could be looking at a few weeks off again.
Powerful toe poke for the 3 points
7 of 10
Maxi Rodriguez had a creative and strong outing for the Reds, well only really the second half, but at least that is something.
Maxi grew more influential and stronger as the second half progressed. His actually went looking for the ball rather than looking like a rabbit in the headlights when getting it in past games.
He actually looked like he wanted to be more involved this afternoon and was driving forward with much more purpose and, more importantly, much more self-belief.
His goal was the icing on a great move; a delightful back heel from Torres that nutmegged his marker at the edge of the box allowed Maxi to run on and hit a powerful toe-poke past the Bolton goalkeeper, who will look at the replays and feel he should have done better.
But Maxi's 86th minute goal proved to be the winning goal in a game which was probably one of his best to date.
Meireles celebrates Maxi's winning goal
4 of 10
Raul Meireles was average or maybe slight above that when he played in the centre of Liverpool's midfield but again nothing too inspiring.
With the injury to Joe Cole forcing him off, Roy Hodgson threw on David Ngog and pushed the Portuguese on to the flanks and with that ended his afternoon. Meireles pretty much disappeared from the game after that.
Prior to that, once again, he is finding his feet in a league that is faster and more physical than he was used to playing in. And playing against Bolton this afternoon again, showed that he has quite a way to go before we see his best.
The most impressive things about Meireles today were his tattoos.
Lucas......another effective display
6 of 10
Lucas had yet another steady and strong game in centre of Liverpool's midfield. He is never going to have the passing skills of Xavi Alonso or the tenacity of Javier Mascherano. But he does have a consistency that is growing to higher levels.
This afternoon, he tidied up the play, linked the play well and provided the balance in the centre of the field. His passing was tidy and effective and his tackling well timed when required.
The high point of his afternoon was the delightfully weighted pass along the turf to Torres that allowed the striker to back heel the ball straight from the pass into the space that Maxi was running into, for Liverpool's opening and winning goal.
Another quiet but very effective afternoon's work from the Brazilian.
Steven Gerrard; a little uninterested today.
5 of 10
At times this afternoon Steven Gerrard looked a little deflated and uninterested. He probably like most fans thought it was going to be another disappointing game.
There were some nice moves and attempted passes but not the usual Gerrard doggedness and never say die attitude to his game. He seemed to be content to let others take the slack for once.
When passes or moves he instigated did not play out, you did not see the expected Gerrard response of eagerly attempting to win the ball back, he simply stood there shaking his head or slumping his shoulders.
A shot dragged wide and a poorly executed free kick seemed to be the way it was for Gerrard this afternoon.
Thankfully, the Reds did not need their captain to win the game for them today, as he did seem able but more disturbing, not willing or interested to.
Fernando Torres worked hard today.
5 of 10
A performance saved at the death by a deft back heel that Maxi ran on to to score the winner.
Fernando Torres started off the day lively and sprightly with a one on one with the Bolton goalkeeper that he just over ran slightly.
After this, not much stuck, his passes were wayward and lay off poor. Torres still looked a little out of sorts the more the game went on.
But he must be given full credit for his hard work and persistence. In other games his shoulders have slumped and he has become withdrawn as games have progressed. This afternoon he worked hard and was rewarded with the assist for the goal that gave the Reds the points.
Torres is as good as the service he gets and that was again lacking today, so a workmanlike, if unspectacular outing for the Liverpool hit man.
David Ngog was not really effective
4 of 10
Ngog came on in the 60 minutes but was really the wrong substitute to make. Hodgson pulled Meireles on to the flank to accommodate the Frenchman effectively ending the Portuguese's game. The change reduced the Reds to 10 effective players.
The better change would have been to introduce Jonjo Shelvey and into the departing Joe Cole's position.
After coming on Ngog was not really very productive and did not ever look like he was going to turn the game on its head.
Was not on long enough to make any contribution...thankfully.
Three points; Thanks Maxi!
Liverpool went away from this bruising and tough encounter with Bolton with three points and on the balance of the game that was two too many.
Although, this was a performance far more improved than those of late besides last week, Bolton will feel hard done not have shared the points and in all honesty a draw would have been a fair result.
Roy Hodgson once again set up his team with a plodding and slow style. There is precious little forward momentum in Liverpool's play under Hodgson and he seems more intent on not losing than winning.
This is reflected in the stunning statistic that this was Hodgson's first away win in 23 league matches.
Little credit goes to the manager for this win and little should, his tactics were too defensive and pedestrian. Credit must go to the players and in particular to Lucas and Maxi. These two players have been on the end of some scathing criticism in the past but today were much improved.
The most impressive displays this afternoon came from the traveling Liverpool fans, who sang and cheered the Reds so vociferously that at times you could be forgiven to think you were at Anfield. Pity it did not make Hodgson think so and get his players to play more progressively and with more adventure.
The tempo was higher and the pace quicker but this was more down to Bolton being quick into the tackle and the Reds having to move the ball quicker. Liverpool themselves were forced into the pace rather than dictating it.
But the three points were very much welcomed as a draw looked likely and a prolonged stay in the bottom half on the cards. Liverpool jump six places to twelfth, with twelve points from ten games.
The points and win, so needed and relieved fans were to get it, masked the issue that Liverpool are no where near where they should be. Some luck and a moment of magic has brought more points than what were deserved today and this should not hide the fact that Liverpool are still in the wrong part of the table.
Hodgson wanted to be judged after ten games. That is now and despite a win today, if NESV want to guide Liverpool back to the top, then serious consideration should be given to whether the manager is the right man to lead them there.
The danger is that two more points than what were deserved today gives Hodgson another week longer in a position, that the longer he occupies, is more detrimental to the future of the club.