Liverpool Back To Winning Ways as Joe Cole Seals Late Victory Against Bolton

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2011

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Liverpool Manager Roy Hodgson shakes hands with Joe Cole of Liverpool at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Anfield on January 1, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Liverpool bounced back to winning ways in the Premiership with a last-gasp winner against Bolton Wanderers at Anfield today, to stem the tide of frustrations from the fans following the mid-week defeat by Wolves.

Boss Roy Hodgson had faced a barrage of criticism from supporters following the latest inept display of his chargers and after the game was involved in an embarrassing spat as he claimed the fans were not helping matters by calls for Kenny Dalglish to be installed as manager, rather than supporting the current regime under himself.

Fast forward a few days, one poorly constructed non-apology and the arrival of Owen Coyle's in-form Lancaster outfit and Liverpool fans were hoping for better fare than the drivel served up in the final game of 2010.

Hodgson made several alterations to his starting line up following the horrendous defeat; most notably with a double change in defence, Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio coming into the side, the latter for his first league start of the season, in place of Soto Kyrgiakos and Paul Konchesky, who was so heavily barracked by the fans when substituted late on against Wolves. While the Greek defender was on the bench, the former Fulham full-back Konchesky had no place in the match day squad, youngster Martin Kelly instead getting the nod for the second defender's substitute slot.

In midfield, the return to the side of Maxi Rodriguez in place of the "extremely tired" Steven Gerrard gave the midfield a more balanced look, with Raul Meireles returned to his favoured central role.

However the Portuguese maestro's afternoon was to last a mere twenty minutes before he succumbed to injury, with captain Gerrard entering the field rather earlier than Hodgson and his medical staff might have anticipated.

The early exchanges were scrappy and possession was continually being lost, and until Martin Skrtel nodded a set piece well wide there was no real danger on either goal. Dirk Kuyt was having a busy afternoon and was looking more like his old self, while Torres was looking sharp with the ball at his feet, though the defensive duo for Bolton of Zat Knight and Gary Cahill were keeping him at bay.

In truth, there was little goalmouth action to speak of in the first half; the closest either side came to an equaliser was from a turn and shot from Torres which was blocked in the six yard area, before Maxi saw his effort from the rebound hacked away before the goal line.

Bolton had offered little in terms of attacking threat and the neat build up play which has characterised their season under boss Owen Coyle was infrequently evident, as they seemed to be missing the presence of key personnel such as Stuart Holden, Chun Yong Lee and Gretar Steinsson.

However, the away side took the lead largely against the run of play just a few minutes before half time. Fabio Aurelio gave away a free kick out near the touchline and from Matty Taylor's floated ball to the back post, the Liverpool marking was poor and Kevin Davies was gifted the sort of chance he thrives on, and planted his header firmly past Pepe Reina who until then had been almost entirely uncalled upon.

Danny Agger drove out of defence with the ball at his feet in one of his customary runs forward as Liverpool searched for an equaliser before the break, but from the resulting free kick won by the Dane, Lucas Leiva could only scuff an effort wide of the post from inside the six yard box.

As the half-time whistle went, media outlets must have gone into a frenzy regarding Hodgson's position, losing at Anfield again for the second time in a few days, but in fairness Liverpool had played the better football and didn't deserve to be behind.

After the break, Liverpool took only a few minutes to get into their stride again and the excellent Steven Gerrard soon provided a perfect cross over the head of Zat Knight, onto which Torres latched on before firing a superb controlled volley past the Bolton 'keeper Jaaskelainen for the equalising goal.

Buoyed by their success, the Reds pressed forward further and continued to probe the full-back areas of the away side, with Kuyt, Gerrard and Johnson all enjoying progress down the right side.

However, for all the possession and endeavour of Liverpool, the opposition keeper had not really been forced to make a significant save, with Gerrard twice firing wide and Torres curling an effort inches past the far post just minutes after he had equalised.

Klasnic made an entrance for Bolton and could have put his team back in front when Johnson needlessly gifted him the ball outside the area, but Reina was untroubled. Indeed, he must have welcomed most of a rare afternoon off as Liverpool played far higher up the pitch during this game than in many other matches recently.

Mark Davies stung the Spanish stopper's palms with an effort from the edge of the area, but the momentum was with Liverpool as the game entered injury time.

Fernando Torres was perhaps lucky to escape without punishment after an altercation with Gary Cahill - the defender had fouled him for the umpteenth time during the game but Torres responded by pushing the defender's face; a misdemeanour which could have earned a yellow card or worse on another day.

Just as it was looking as though the Reds would have to settle for a point, Gerrard sent over yet another enticing cross to the far post and as Maxi went for the ball in a tangle with a Bolton defender, it was deflected back across goal by Cahill into the path of Liverpool substitute Joe Cole, who had come on just eight minutes earlier for Ngog. Cole had the simple task of tapping home for the Reds, and finally the deserved three points were in sight.

Bolton had one final chance to scupper the party as Klasnic twisted inside the box and fired a low shot in, but Reina was alert and made a sharp stop to his left.

Liverpool closed out the final moments of the game and Hodgson was left smiling at the full time whistle, as his team rose to ninth in the league with their first win in four games.

Full time from Anfield; Liverpool 2 Bolton 1.

Man of the Match: Steven Gerrard.

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