Football: Reds Title Surge Gathers Pace
Posted November 15, 2008on:
BOLTON, England – Goals by Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard ensured Liverpool’s title surge gathered momentum as Rafa Benitez’s side recorded a hard-fought 2-0 win at Bolton on Saturday.
Kuyt’s seventh goal of the season set his team on the way before Gerrard struck after half-time to send Liverpool three points clear at the top of the Premier League table – if only for a few hours.
Benitez surprisingly left star striker Fernando Torres out of his starting line-up, three days after the Spain striker had made his first start for five weeks during the League Cup defeat at Tottenham.
The prospect of Torres being omitted seemed unthinkable not long ago.
But the belief oozing through Benitez’s side is such that the manager can afford to leave him out, especially as he believes the Spain striker is still three weeks from returning to peak form after recent hamstring problems.
Yet Torres still managed to play a key role in the win as he provided the cross for Gerrard to score after climbing off the substitutes bench.
Benitez had fielded a side made up mainly of fringe players at Tottenham.
But key men Gerrard, Robbie Keane, Javier Mascherano and Xabio Alonso were recalled as Liverpool looked to build on their best start to a Premier League season under Benitez.
They were made to work hard for their win by a stubborn Bolton side but few at the Reebok Stadium would deny that Liverpool were worthy winners.
Bolton players argued that they should have had an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, Gary Cahill’s header ruled out after Kevin Nolan had obstructed keeper Jose Reina.
But Liverpool would have won by a more handsome margin had the lively Kuyt not been denied by the crossbar while Gerrard and Robbie Keane were both guilty of glaring misses.
Mid-table Bolton went into the game looking to build on back-to-back victories over Manchester City and Hull, but the hosts soon found themselves under the cosh as Denmark defender Daniel Agger headed narrowly wide before Keane forced Finland’s Jussi Jaaskelainen into a 21st-minute save.
With Albert Riera inspirational down the left flank, Liverpool continued to carve out chances.
Bolton were saved by the woodwork in the 22nd minute when Kuyt let fly from 12-yards following good work by Steven Gerrard before the 28-year-old made the breakthrough six minutes later with his 20th Premier League goal since joining from Feyenoord in August 2006.
The goal was made by Fabio Aurelio whose inch-perfect cross floated over Bolton’s defence and found the head of Kuyt, who in turn found the corner of the net.
By now Liverpool were well in control yet Keane wasted a glorious chance to double his side’s lead in the 30th minute when the unmarked Ireland captain somehow missed the target from two yards out after taking his eye off the ball while trying to connect with Kuyt’s low cross.
Gerrard was guilty of a copy-cat miss in the second-half after Torres had climbed off the substitutes bench to tee-up his captain.
Those misses could have proved ever so costly but, fortunately for Liverpool, Bolton’s finishing was just as poor.
Jamaica international Ricardo Gardner, a half time substitute, did well to power his way through the Liverpool defence before rounding Reina in the 52nd minute.
But just as the Bolton fans got ready to celebrate Gardner screwed his shot horribly wide after slipping at the crucial moment.
Liverpool’s second goal arrived in the 72nd minute, Torres producing a superb cross for Gerrard to glance a header past Jaaskelainen.
The Bolton keeper then made fine saves to deny the lively Torres and Alonso as Liverpool finished strongly.
– AFP /ls
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