Monday, January 23, 2012

Match Report: Bolton 3 - 1 Liverpool

Bolton's battle to avoid relegation received an unexpected boost with victory over a Liverpool side who need to improve quickly if their season is not to unravel around them.

Midfielders Mark Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker gave the home side a deserved 2-0 lead inside half-an-hour and although Craig Bellamy's seventh of the season reduced the deficit, Gretar Steinsson restored the two-goal cushion just five minutes into the second half.

The victory saw Wanderers move out of the bottom three with a performance full of desire and tenacity which, especially in the first half, had the visitors' looking at each other quizzically.

Manager Kenny Dalglish will also no doubt want answers to how a side with only one home win all season - and who have lost their last 10 against the Reds - could open up a usually reliable defence so easily.

Prior to this match only Premier League title-chasers Manchester City and Tottenham had scored three or more against Liverpool this season.

Worryingly for Dalglish, they have to face City at home on Wednesday in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final holding just a slender 1-0 lead.

If they defend as poorly as this the 16-year wait for a Wembley appearance may go on even longer.

Wanderers made it 10 points from their last six matches and manager Owen Coyle will hope this result will prove to be a turning point for his beleaguered side.

But after watching his players fail to break down Stoke last week - one of many struggles at Anfield - Dalglish has to find a way of lifting a team which has won just once in six league matches, collecting just six points.

Liverpool's excellent record against Bolton counted for little as early as the fourth minute when the home side took the lead.

Martin Skrtel stepped out to meet Chris Eagles' pass into David Ngog but the slightest of touches from the former Reds striker moved it on to Davies who charged into the penalty area to shoot low just inside Jose Reina's left-hand post.

Eagles should have made it 2-0 when he held off the challenge of Jose Enrique as he ran in from the touchline only to fire a cross-shot past the far post from a narrow angle.

Bellamy, playing up front alongside Andy Carroll, was by far Liverpool's biggest threat with his pace getting him behind the Wanderers defence on a number of occasions.

The Wales international had one shot blocked by David Wheater while Carroll, who began to link better with his partner as the match wore on, headed straight at Adam Bogdan from Steven Gerrard's crossfield pass.

After Maxi Rodriguez's penalty appeal for the ball hitting Zat Knight's arm was rejected Bolton all too easily carved open Liverpool's defence for a second time.

Eagles was again the instigator, coming off the right touchline to chip the ball over the centre-backs for Reo-Coker to stab home.

Carroll was coming into the game more and after one first-time pass sent Bellamy racing through to shoot at Bogdan his flick-on led to a goal.

His header from Reina's clearance sent the Welshman racing through and this time he cleverly clipped the ball past the Bolton goalkeeper.

Bogdan then saved well from Gerrard's shot before Reina batted away Martin Petrov's free-kick in first-half added time.

Liverpool's hopes of redressing the balance early in the second half were snuffed out after just five minutes when Wheater headed Petrov's corner back across goal and Steinsson slid a shot inside the post.

With 25 minutes to go Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt were sent on for Rodriguez and Charlie Adam in an attempt to rescue the situation.

The chances were still falling to Carroll though but his luck did not improve as he blazed over from Davies' mis-control in the penalty area before completely missing Downing's cut-back.

Defender Daniel Agger had come closer moments earlier when his long-range drive clipped the top of the crossbar.

Carroll, without a league goal since October 29, continued to labour in front of net, typified by his complete miskick from Downing's cut-back.

Liverpool's attacking in the closing stages became even more desperate but they rarely looked like threatening Bogdan.

A first win over the Reds since September 10 did wonders for Bolton's confidence, less so for Liverpool who are looking increasingly ragged by the week.

Dalglish - Heads Will Roll

Furious Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has threatened some of his players with the chop after accusing them of showing a lack of respect in a 3-1 defeat at Bolton.

For the first time since returning as Reds boss just over a year ago, the Scot publicly criticized his squad.

Dalglish believes they were distracted by Wednesday's forthcoming Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City, which they go into holding a slender 1-0 lead, and the FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Manchester United next weekend.

As a result, midfielders Mark Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker were able to put their side 2-0 up inside half an hour and although Craig Bellamy's seventh of the season reduced the deficit, Gretar Steinsson restored the two-goal cushion five minutes into the second half.

Dalglish accused his players of disrespecting Bolton and warned if that is repeated in future, they will find themselves heading out of Anfield.

"There is no-one at this football club who doesn't have respect for other people," Dalglish told ESPN.

"If that was what the problem was, if they thought this game was not as important as the next one, then fine - but they won't be here.

"The result is disappointing, but the most disappointing thing for me was I don't think they were ready to play the game.

"I don't think the approach was correct, I don't think the way we went about our work was correct.

"The foundation of this football club has always been built on is respect for other people.

"It is built on the philosophy that the next game is the most important one, not the one that is two or three down the line.

"If they needed a lesson to be taught to them, then this was it.

"If they think they can just turn up and get a result and not be competitive and not match the opposition for effort, then they have had a lesson today.

"If we have learned it, then fine, but we have to look at ourselves - without taking anything away from Owen Coyle and the way Bolton played - and what we can do and try to prevent it happening in the future."

Why Kenny Saw Red

Henry Winter believes Kenny Dalglish's outburst following the Bolton defeat is "unprecedented" in the history of Liverpool Football Club.

The Reds boss publically criticized members of his squad following the 3-1 loss at the Reebok Stadium, accusing them of showing a lack of respect to their opponents and being distracted by Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final second leg with Manchester City and next weekend's FA Cup clash with Manchester United.

Dalglish also hinted that some of his players could be sold if they don't change their approach and Daily Telegraph Football Correspondent Winter felt the outburst was out of character for the Scot.

He says Dalglish and Liverpool rarely air such issues in public, so he must have been particularly aggrieved with his players on Saturday.

Winter told the Sunday Supplement: "If you look at Dalglish, has he had a go at his players before?

"I don't think he did at Newcastle, I don't think he did at Blackburn Rovers or in his first incarnation at Liverpool Football Club as manager.

"This is unprecedented. It's unprecedented for Dalglish and it's pretty unprecedented for Liverpool, who like to do their talking on issues like this, team matters, in the dressing room.

"I just think his anger was justified because clearly the players were playing the game ahead, the cup games, rather than giving Bolton the respect they deserved.

"That word respect is huge for Dalglish and he kept on mentioning it in his press conference. They were really poor."

Winter also pointed out that Dalglish must shoulder some of the blame himself.

Alongside Director of Football Damien Comolli he has spent millions of pounds on players such as Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson in the last 12 months.

And having signed the players, Winter says Dalglish must accept he is partly responsible for Liverpool's poor performances.

He added: "I think Dalglish has to look at his players because these players are ones that he has brought in.

"You can argue that it's Comolli pushing them in, but Dalglish sanctioned those signings.

"The players that he's substituted and the players - although he's not naming them - that he has criticized are ones that he brought in a year ago.

"I can understand there may be a certain microclimate going on this week with Liverpool in terms of the cup games, but a lot of those players have been underperforming all season."

Coyle - We Deserved Three Points

Owen Coyle felt Bolton Wanderers ran out deserved winners following their emphatic 3-1 success over Liverpool at the Reebok.

Bolton came into the game having lost 10 straight in league action to the Reds, a record that ended in style on Saturday.

Mark Davies fired the home side ahead early on with Nigel Reo-Coker doubling their advantage in the 29th minute.

Craig Bellamy reduced the arrears before the interval, but Gretar Steinsson's crisp volley ended any hope of a comeback.

Coyle is acutely aware of how difficult it is to beat the leading Premier League clubs, however, he insists no luck was involved this time.

"When you play a club of the stature of Liverpool sometimes you can get a result and sometimes you ride your luck but nothing could be further from the truth today," explained Coyle.

"We were in good form coming into the game so we had great belief in the way we went about it.

"We believed we could win today. The great thing was not just the win but how we won. It was a team performance.

"I can't say it was pleasurable, having a late kick-off and watching the results come in.

"When you are second-bottom of the league it is quite agonizing but when the dust settled we knew a win would take us out of the bottom three.

"But it was not just the win, it was of such a high standard: the passing, the movement and we looked a threat every time we went forward."

Reo-Coker Slams Bellamy

Nigel Reo-Coker says he has 'no respect' for Craig Bellamy after a bust-up between the pair during Bolton's 3-1 win over Liverpool.

There has been a long-running feud between the pair since 2007 and those hostilities were resumed at the Reebok Stadium.

Bellamy and Reo-Coker clashed just before the half-time interval with Bolton team-mate Zat Knight forced to drag Reo-Coker away as the war of words threatened to explode.

Reo-Coker, who scored for Bolton, continued the spat after the game when he was asked about the row, saying he has no time for Bellamy.

"Craig Bellamy is Craig Bellamy; I have no respect for him so he can do what he wants to do," Reo-Coker told ESPN.

Jelavic Favours Reds Switch

Nikica Jelavic's father has claimed that the Rangers striker has grander ambitions than to play for West Ham or Queens Park Rangers and is 'most likely' to sign for Liverpool.

The Croatian has been heavily linked with a move away from Ibrox this winter following a series of impressive performances in the SPL over the past 18 months.

Sam Allardyce confirmed at the weekend that West Ham had enquired about the availability of Jelavic, while QPR are also understood to be keeping tabs on his situation.

However, reports have also suggested that Liverpool are interested and the 26-year-old's father says there are several clubs in the running for his signature.

Philip Jelavic claims Liverpool are one of those clubs and believes his son could soon be heading to Anfield.

"We know about the interest of West Ham and QPR," Jelavic senior said in The Sun.

"But Nikica has five or six clubs that are interested, including that of the great Liverpool.

"As for West Ham and QPR, Nikica is more ambitious than that.

"It's most likely that he'll sign for Liverpool.

"But there are a few days until the end of the window, so we'll see."

Liverpool Prepare £8m Bid For Esteban Granero

Liverpool is reportedly in talks with Real Madrid ahead of a bid to sign midfielder Esteban Granero. The Anfield side is keen to beef up their central midfield options and have earmarked a move for the adaptable 24 year old this month. The Merseyside club is lining up a bid in the region of £8m for the former Spanish Under-21 international.

Jose Mourinho has relegated Granero into something of a bit part player and there is growing speculation that the former Getafe man may be warming to the idea of a move to the Premier League. Thus far this season he has managed just two starts thus far this season and may well be a player that the Real Madrid boss feels he can afford to offload.

Though Liverpool brought in the likes of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam to help add more drive to the club’s midfield both have struggled to hit a run of form and Kenny Dalglish is said to be keen on bringing in more creative options and Granero’s touch and intelligent distribution have caught his eye.

Liverpool lost Raul Meireles to Chelsea and loaned out pair Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani on season long deals so there is space to bring in additions and a move for the Real Madrid man would be a fairly cost effective option to turn to. Granero started his career at the Bernabeu but failed to break into the first team and was sold to nearby Getafe however in July 2009 former boss Manuel Pellegrini opted to trigger his buy back clause and in his first season notched up 35 appearances for the Madristas.

Over the past two seasons Granero has watched as Mourinho signed players like Sami Khedira, Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and new addition Jose Callejon move ahead of him in the pecking order.

Lazio Join United And Liverpool In Chase For Dutch Striker

Manchester United and Liverpool target Ricky van Wolfswinkel is a wanted man – with Lazio ready to make a £13million bid for the Sporting Lisbon star this month.

United and Liverpool are keen on the striker but were expected to wait until the summer to make bids.

But they could yet be forced into action this month as Lazio are ready to enter the race to sign the highly-rated Dutchman.

The Italians are keen to add firepower to their attacking options and they have enquired about Van Wolfswinkel’s price.

Sporting are holding firm, though, and not entertaining any enquiries or offers this month – unless a large bid is launched.

The Portuguese club is understood to value Van Wolfswinkel, 22, closer to the £22m bracket, but news of Lazio’s firm interest could spark a bidding war.

Sir Alex Ferguson last year claimed he signed Phil Jones a year ahead of schedule as he got wind of interest elsewhere – and he could now be forced into a move for Van Wolfswinkel.

The Dutch striker’s haul of 15 goals in 26 league games for Utrecht last season earned his move to Sporting – and he has continued with seven in 11 league games this term.