Liverpool goalkeeper dedicates save to deceased son after 3-2 victory over Blackburn Rovers
LIVERPOOL third choice goalkeeper Brad Jones dedicated his emotional return to football to his recently deceased son after helping his side to a dramatic victory over Blackburn Rovers.
Jones, who will now face Everton in this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final, took time out of football in November following the death of his five-year-old child, Luca, from leukaemia.
Now he has been thrust into the biggest week of Liverpool's season as Kenny Dalglish heads to Wembley without two senior goalkeepers.
The 30-year-old Australian was summoned off the bench following the 25th minute dismissal of another reserve keeper, Alexander Doni, at Ewood Park.
Jones immediately saved a penalty from his ex-Middlesbrough team-mate, Yakubu, as Liverpool secured a morale boosting 3-2 victory.
Jones said: “The supporters have been brilliant. It has been a difficult 18 months with my son passing away. That was for him and obviously for them as well for giving me the support they have.
“My girlfriend gave birth to a little boy [Nico Luca] recently so it has been a big week. The semi-final is not something I have been thinking about to be honest. But it’s a big game and it is about preparing for that and making sure I am focused.”
Doni, called up for the suspended Pepe Reina, was sent off for a professional foul on Junior Hoilett during an action-filled game, in which Andy Carroll headed an injury time winner. Blackburn had earlier cancelled out a two-goal deficit.
Manager Kenny Dalglish refused to comment on Doni’s dismissal, but insisted he had faith in Jones’ ability to excel at Wembley, despite one or two anxious moments of his own.
The nervous Australian was almost dismissed himself after a shove on Yakubu in the second half, which also led to a penalty. Referee Anthony Taylor chose only to book the stand-in as Dalglish’s keeper problems almost descended into farce.
Jones is now the only recognised senior goalkeeper available for Saturday’s clash at Wembley. Reina is still banned after being sent off for violent conduct at Newcastle.
Fourth choice Peter Gulacsi is currently on loan at Hull for the season, leaving Dalglish struggling for a substitute keeper against Everton. Only teenagers Tyrrel Belford and Danny Ward are left as cover.
Liverpool will assess the video evidence before deciding whether to appeal against Doni’s sending off. Asked if he would consider a request to the FA for an emergency loan, Dalglish said: “I honestly don’t know what the rules are but at least we’ve got one keeper anyway.
“Brad had a wee bit of an advantage with the penalty because he and Yakubu were at Middlesbrough together, so maybe there’s a bit of a psychological advantage. His first contribution in the Premier League for us is to save a penalty so I’m sure he will remember that. We are not going to talk about contentious decisions because we have not seen them. Once I’ve seen it I will be better educated, so there’s not point asking me about the sending off.”
Of the much-needed victory, Dalglish added: “I can’t speak highly enough of the players’ commitment,” said Dalglish. “It was a fantastic start and after going down to 10 men they just about deserved to win. It gives everyone a lift.”
Blackburn manager Steve Kean claimed Carroll’s winner should have been disallowed for a foul by Martin Skrtel. “Skrtel brought Grant Hanley down at the far post and he can’t recover to pick up his man who was Andy Carroll. The players are gutted because Grant says he would have got back if he wasn’t pushed to the floor, but we don’t get the decision. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“There are big decisions in the game for the officials. They got the sending off right and the yellow card for the sub keeper right, but in the last minute someone is getting pulled to the ground and they have to see that.”