Kyrgiakos 48, Torres 53
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1
Carragher (og) 50
If any conclusion could be drawn from the Liverpool’s goalless draw in Naples last week, it was that manager Roy Hodgson badly needed to find a way to transfer some of the fighting spirit shown by his second string of youngsters onto his first XI in time for the weekend. On Sunday’s evidence, he managed to succeed in that. It was not quite a classic performance from the Reds – they showed a good deal of nerves in the final stages, defending their one-goal margin – but they certainly showed a dogged determination that has been sorely lacking in recent league outings. Some fans’ claims that the club have ‘turned a corner’ will not quite convince until Liverpool string another couple of wins together, but this was certainly a good start.
“I thought today we saw a Fernando Torres that showed the sort of commitment he’s been criticised for not always showing. I think that he’s had a bad period but he’s coming out of that period now and he’s playing better and better, we’ve seen that coming, we see it in training and everything he does, but what he needed of course was a good game behind him where everyone else sees it.”
This was probably the biggest single plus that Hodgson can take from the game. The Reds were dominant for much of the match – and if it not for an excellent first half-display from Paul Robinson and somewhat fortuitous Blackburn equaliser, probably would have won by a much larger margin – but what was most notable was a much-improved display from a seemingly resurgent Torres. Not only did the Spaniard score a well-taken goal (his first since August), but looked lively and dangerous in attack and linked up well with the midfield. There were other individual improvements too: For example, Maxi Rodriguez looked more like the threatening winger he was in his Atletico Madrid heyday, and Sotirios Kyrgiakos dominated at both ends of the pitch.
Reds fans shouldn’t get ahead of themselves – they are, after all, still in the bottom three. However, this was both a badly needed win and a decent performance to go with it. The Reds racked up fifteen corners and ten attempts on target, and can probably be forgiven for the late nerves considering the game’s ‘must-win’ status. Torres ended his drought, and the pressure is off Hodgson, at least briefly. What really matters now, however, is that the Reds build on this result, which will mean doing what they have failed to do in more than two months at the Reebok Stadium next weekend – win away from home.
23 Carragher – 16 Kyrgiakos – 37 Skrtel – 3 Konchesky
17 – Maxi – 4 Raul Meireles – 21 Lucas Leiva – 10 Cole
78 – 24 Ngog on for 10 Cole
89 – 33 Shelvey on for 4 Raul Meireles