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Blackburn Rovers 2 Liverpool 3 - Prem (Apr 10 2012)

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Blackburn Rovers 2 LIVERPOOL 3

Report by Dave Usher

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Scorer(s) – Maxi (2), Carroll

Half Time - 1-2

Venue - Ewood Park

Date - Tue 10 Apr 2012

Star Man – Andy Carroll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's nice to be able to write about a win for a change. Normally three points against Blackburn would be seen as par for the course, nothing to get too excited about. There's been nothing 'normal' about this season however, and the manner of victory and the circumstances under which was achieved made this a result and performance to be proud of.

 

Everything that had been sadly missing in recent weeks was there in spades at Ewood; character, resilience, desire, mental toughness, and crucially, goals.

 

Had it not been for the unfortunate incident that saw the desperately unlucky Doni sent off and possibly ruled out of a Wembley showpiece game against the blues, we may have ran riot in this game. We were certainly threatening to as the likes of Shelvey, Maxi, Bellamy and Carroll started the game like a runaway train. Doni's red card forced a major reshuffle that resulted in Shelvey having to play deeper and that made it much more difficult for us, and in particular for Carroll who was left to plough a lone furrow.

 

I doubt if anyone expected us to start as quickly as we did. The starting line up didn't fill me with confidence as Gerrard and Suarez were both left out of it with an eye on the cup semi final. The good news was the return of Johnson and it's always nice to see Maxi in the side as the odds of us finding the net are greatly increased by his presence. His lack of gametime is one of the biggest mysteries of the season. He thrived more than anybody under Dalglish last season and he's played his part this season too in the limited opportunities he's had. Yet he's had to sit and watch from the bench for most of the year whilst the likes of Downing and Henderson have managed just one goal between them and the side in general has been desperately short of goals.

 

Maxi hit two hat-tricks towards the back end of last season and ended up with ten league goals in total. In his limited opportunities this season he's still found the net frequently, with six goals in twelve starts in all competitions and an impressive four in just six league starts. How does he not start more often?

 

He doesn't do anything special to get his goals either, just uses his football brain to get himself into positions where he will have a chance of scoring. Too many of our players don't know how to do that. His first goal was a tap in, but look at the ground he covered to get into position and also the way he held his run to give Bellamy the opening for the cross (which he delivered perfectly). There's no way in a million years Downing would have been in that position.

 

The goal also owed much to a stunning ball out of defence by Skrtel that released Bellamy. Admittedly, Blackburn's defending left a lot to be desired but we took full advantage of that for a change. Carroll had also done well in his own penalty area to win the ball and show good composure to roll it to Skrtel.

 

The second goal was all about Shelvey. He won the ball cleverly in his own half from Dunn and then set off towards goal unchallenged. He reached the edge of the box, made a yard for himself and shot low towards the far corner. Robinson could only palm the ball out and as Carroll challenged the centre half the ball popped up for Maxi to volley in at the back post. He made the chance look easier than it was, but he's got good technique and a cool head.

 

At 2-0 up so early in the game and with our confidence suddenly flooding back it was looking like we may fill our boots. The one concern was that Flanagan was having a really bad time of it. He'd been booked for pulling down his man after he'd been caught in possession, and almost picked up a second yellow when he was a fraction late to a loose ball and sent Olsson sprawling. It could easily have been a sending off but the referee to his credit recognised it for what it was, a young lad who'd shown his inexperience by trying to win a ball he thought he could get and arriving a split second too late. Skipper for the evening Skrtel was called over to tell the young full back to watch himself.

 

Unfortunately Flanagan's evening would soon be ended prematurely by a red card, but not to himself. His badly underhit backpass sent Hoillett clear and he was brought down by Doni, leaving the referee no choice but to send him off. Flanagan was immediately replaced by sub keeper Brad Jones who remarkably saved Yakubu's weak penalty. Everyone knows what Jones has been through recently, and it was a touching moment seeing him point skywards.

 

Hard not to feel a little sorry for Doni though, and it was good seeing Reina go to the dressing room to check on him before reporting back to the rest of the lads on the bench who were all clearly concerned. Not sure if he is definitely ruled out of the semi final as I heard something about if we appeal it by a certain time he'd be eligible to play in that game but may face an extra game punishment if he loses the appeal. Given that Reina would be back then we've really got nothing to lose if that is indeed the case. Whether or not Doni is a better option than Jones is another question. I don't trust either if I'm honest.

 

The penalty save was a great boost to us, had we conceded a goal immediately after going a man down it would have been a massive setback. We needed to get to half time at 2-0 but slack marking from a free-kick allowed Yakubu to atone for his penalty miss and blow the game wide open again with a simple header. Not sure who was responsible for picking him up, looked like either Carroll or Johnson. Someone fell asleep though as how can you not notice a 20 stone, middle aged man lurking in your penalty area??

 

Despite that setback we generally looked quite comfortable even with ten men and led at half time. The cutting edge we'd shown early on was no longer there, understandably, with Shelvey having to drop into midfield to replace Henderson who had been pressed into emergency duty at right back.

 

We never attempted to sit back and hold what we had though, the second half saw us continue to press for goals and we did create some decent openings. Carroll headed wide at full stretch following a brilliant Bellamy corner, and Bellamy could have done better when Carroll's header sent him scampering goalwards. Unfortunately a poor touch allowed a defender to get back and concede a corner.

 

Jones didn't have much to do, he made a few routine saves from shots that were straight at him and he was looking composed and confident. Then out of nothing he had a triple brainfart. First, he took too long to clear the ball and Yakubu charged it down. Second, he flapped at the ball as it dropped from the sky underneath the crossbar. Third, he pushed Yakubu as they went for the loose ball.

 

A penalty was inevitable, even though the Yak clearly did his usual 'dying swan' routine as he crashed to the floor like he'd been hit by a truck. Given what had happened to Reina and Doni, I'm sure everyone's heart was in their mouth for a second until the referee - correctly - produced a yellow card. Yakubu was going away from the goal and headed towards Coates. It was not a clear goalscoring opportunity as Yakubu would have still had to beat Jones even if he reached the ball before the defender. Correct decision.

 

Yakubu's penalty was even worse than the first one but this time Jones had dived the other way. 2-2 and the much needed three points we looked to be heading towards was suddenly looking like it would be just the one, assuming we could hold on that is.

 

As the game wore on however, we seemed to get stronger. Whereas in recent weeks the desire to dig in and fight for the result has been sadly lacking, this time the players could not be faulted in that regard. The setback of going a man down seemed to galvanise them into a great effort.

 

They played for eachother, they worked hard, they showed a desire to win the game that has been missing far too often in 2012. Even had Carroll not headed that late winner I'd have been praising the effort and commitment shown by the side. It was fitting that they did go on to win the game however as it was no more than they deserved.

 

Blackburn can complain all they like about the winning goal, for me they don't have a leg to stand on. Hanley tangled with Skrtel and both were as guilty as the other. Hanley held Skrtel down, and when Skrtel got up he pushed off on the Blackburn player. The officials were right to ignore it, and there was no question of offside either as even if you take Hanley out of the equation Agger was onside when he flicked on Coates pass and Carroll was on when he hurled himself forward to head past Robinson in front of a delirious away end.

 

It was a huge goal for us and one that will hopefully prove to be a watershed moment in our season. Nothing has gone right recently. The only luck we've had has been bad and in truth we've not done enough for ourselves to deserve a change in fortune either. This was different, we forced this result through sheer determination.

 

Carroll was a fitting matchwinner too, he worked tirelessly at both ends of the pitch and his use of the ball was good throughout. He's had numerous performances of a similar nature in recent months but generally the goals have not been there to cap them.

 

Given the way things have gone for him this season he'll probably find himself on the bench on Saturday. Good performances have often been rewarded with a spell on the sidelines, but he's done well against Everton this season and I hope he retains his place at Wembley. Ditto Maxi.

 

Bellamy is another who I'd love to see starting at the weekend, but having played the full game here the chances are he'll be on the bench as he's very rarely started two games in a week. A pity as his pace was a big factor in this victory, he gave us a great outlet ball and we're a better side when he's in it.

 

It was funny as he was in the refs ear all night, and when the ref got tired of listening to him he went over and bent the fourth officials ear when there was a stoppage in play. In his defence, the thing that riled him initially was the free-kick that led to Blackburn's first goal. It was given for a handball against him when the ball struck his arm from point blank range. He felt his arm was by his side and he couldn't do anything about it. He's hilarious though, when a decision goes against him he'll approach the other player involved for support and then try and get them to tell the ref, as if that's going to make any difference.

 

The thing that really wound him up however was a yellow card for diving when he was kicked on the knee by Bradley Orr. He spoke to Orr who clearly agreed that he did catch him, so Bellamy then attempted to drag him over to the ref to explain.

 

Bellamy has been labelled many things in his career, plenty of them deserved and most of them he's taken on the chin. 'Cheat' is not something he'll accept though and he was extremely upset at being booked for a dive and the implication that brings. That's what he was saying to the fourth official, you could see him say something about 'he's effectively calling me a cheat'. I love Bellamy though, he's fucking boss.

 

Tell you who else is boss, Martin Skrtel. Another awesome performance from him, capped by the Alonso-esque ball that led to the opening goal. It was great to have Johnson back too, he did well in the 55 minutes he was on the field, and Agger did very well as his replacement. I'd start both on Saturday fitness permitting, and a strong case can be made for Agger to play left back in place of the floundering Enrique.

 

The other two players I think deserve special mention are Henderson and Shelvey. Henderson's energy levels as he bombed up and down that right flank were hugely impressive. He defended well but he was surging forward and actually taking people on. He showed more assertiveness in this game than I've seen from him all season, his energy really helped us cope with being a man down.

 

As for Shelvey, he was good throughout and it's just unfortunate that he had to play in a more disciplined role after the sending off as he was running the game from that position between midfield and attack. He's done his chances of playing at the weekend no harm at all, although I suspect Gerrard and Spearing will be paired together after their success in the recent derby at Anfield.

 

This was a huge result for us, as we couldn't afford to lose any more ground on Everton in the table (not to mention the sides who are creeping up behind us) and we also desperately needed the win for morale as it's been such a wretched run we've been on.

 

In terms of Saturday's game it doesn't mean anything, just as Everton's impressive win over Sunderland the day before doesn't have any bearing on what will happen at Wembley. Even so, I'd rather be going into it on the back of a win than another defeat, and Carroll's late winner has given everyone a much needed lift.

 

Roll on Saturday then I guess….

 

 

Team: Doni; Flanagan (Jones), Coates, Skrtel, Johnson (Agger); Spearing, Henderson; Bellamy, Shelvey, Maxi (Enrique); Carroll:

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I wonder what could be made of Maxi as a striker or even second striker. He clearly has the skills to get in the right positions and he's one of our very limited amount of goalscorers.

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That Hanley really pissed me off last night, so many times he was jumping all over Carroll, hand in face an all and was only booked late on. Could have been sent off in the first half for his persistence in keeping Carroll down.

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good report dave

 

just one thing i noted - that carroll goal was his second headed goal for us in 50 games. For a guy who was bought to use his forehead as his main weapon, its a strange stat....

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Brilliantly written as ever, mate. I loved the Yak line about not noticing a twenty stone, middle aged man in your penalty area. Spot on also about Bellamy. I fucking love him and was pissing myself at the way he was after the officials all night. That incident with Orr was hilarious. He actually badgered the lad into admitting he caught him - you could see Orr starting to say, "Ref..." just as the card came out.

 

Agreed also on the players you singled out for praise. All in all, it was a highly enjoyable match and result.

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