Tuesday 25 July 2017

Davies steers Bolton past rudderless Reds

Bolton 3 Liverpool 1

PAUL WILSON

Bolton climbed out of the bottom three with one of the most improbable results of their season, surprising not only Liverpool but probably some of their supporters with the quality of their football and the neatness of their execution.

The visitors were never allowed to settle, conceded early in both halves, and did not display too much appetite for getting back into the game. Where Bolton have been hiding this poise and control all season is a mystery, but with David Ngog effortlessly outshining his £35m replacement in the Liverpool ranks the result was never in doubt.

Bolton got off to a better start than they could ever have imagined, with Mark Davies putting them in front after four minutes from the first attack of the game. Ngog's clever flick left Martin Skrtel well out of position and powerless to do anything about Davies's dart into the area. The defender thought better of a tackle from behind as he trailed in Davies's wake, leaving the midfielder free to carry the ball almost to the penalty spot before poking a low shot past Pepe Reina.

Liverpool, who had Charlie Adam and Steven Gerrard at midfield, started with Jordan Henderson on the right wing. Stewart Downing had to watch from the bench, for all Kenny Dalglish's insistence that his £20m capture from Aston Villa was a better player than he had initially realised. At least Henderson was able to produce Liverpool's first shot of any note, bringing a save from Adam Bogdan with a drive from long range.

Bolton survived a scare after half an hour when Adam's free kick hit Zat Knight on the backside in the area with neither Andy Carroll nor Maxi Rodriguez able to take advantage of the loose ball, and Liverpool were left regretting their hesitancy when the home side swept straight down the field to score a second with one of the most incisive finishes you could ask to see.

Nigel Reo-Coker has never scored at the Reebok before, but you would never have guessed from the confident manner in which he started and completed the move that put Bolton two up. Releasing the ball towards Chris Eagles on the right, Reo-Coker moved smartly into the area to accept the return, and was not even fazed when the winger decided to chip the ball in his direction rather than roll a pass along the floor. Reo-Coker simply took one touch to control the ball and a second to push a shot beyond Reina.

Liverpool did not know what had hit them and could hardly have been expecting such finesse from a team in the bottom three, yet to their credit they pulled a goal back before half-time.

Carroll had not done an awful lot to impress in front of goal but his header forward from the halfway line bisected Bolton's central defenders and allowed Bellamy to run free, the Welshman's pace doing the rest and leaving Bogdan little hope of reaching the ball first.

That should have been enough action for a lively and entertaining first half, though there was still time for Martin Petrov to bring a flying save from Reina from a stoppage-time free-kick, after Ngog had been fouled by Adam.

If Liverpool thought they were getting back into the game they were disabused of the notion five minutes after the second half got under way. Petrov sent over a deep corner for David Wheater to rise above Skrtel at the far post and nod down for Gretar Steinsson to volley home.

The Liverpool manager sent on Downing and Dirk Kuyt for the last quarter, to little effect. Daniel Agger let fly from 30 yards out and grazed the top of Bogdan's bar. Bellamy brought a save from the Bolton 'keeper though again the shot was from outside the area, and by the end Liverpool's passing in midfield was directionless.

For the second Saturday running Bolton were well served by Davies, though this was a day when everyone in white had a game to remember.

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