Sunday 22 April 2018

Torres provides glimmer of hope for Reds but Hodgson refuses to get carried away


Ian Herbert

YOU KNOW things are looking bad when Gerry Marsden is out leading the rendition of a certain famous Anfield anthem. If that didn't confirm that Roy Hodgson truly is walking alone, an internet poll of Liverpool fans before this game revealed that 65pc actually wanted Blackburn to win, in the hope of putting them and their manager out of his misery.

The consequences of that outcome certainly didn't bear contemplation. Even the new owner John W Henry absent through illness but likely to be here to see Chelsea in two weeks' time, said beforehand, perhaps ominously, that this was an important day at Anfield "in more ways than one".

Almost as important as the result, which still left Liverpool in the bottom three, was the evidence that Hodgson's players possess a belief in him which so many outside of the Anfield gates lack.

Their pace and intensity, in the first half especially, made this their best performance under Hodgson and, for once, Steven Gerrard was not the sole torch-bearer.


The invention of Lucas Leiva proved that one of the most maligned remnants of the Rafael Benitez era deserves better. So, too, Maxi Rodriguez, while Raul Meireles -- a far more ambitious holding midfielder than Christian Poulsen -- finally revealed himself to be the powerful box-to-box player observers had talked of when Hodgson signed him.

This was a different kind of Fernando Torres, too. His matchwinning goal -- his first since the strike at home to West Brom in August which secured Liverpool their only other domestic win of this season -- was not part of a huge personal contribution.

But the sight of Torres in the centre circle just after scoring, stretching and testing his troublesome groin, further illustrated the player's anxiety about an injury that has haunted him since the World Cup.

"He was very down when he came back from the World Cup," Hodgson said. "Maybe people are down when they are criticised left, right and centre. It does get people down. He is coming out of that and starting to find his joy at playing again."

It really would help Liverpool fans' emotional state if Hodgson could find a little more joy himself. Their league position really does not bear deep analysis so early -- they sit just six points behind fifth-placed Tottenham -- but Hodgson was still downbeat and batted away suggestions that this win might be a catalyst for further improvement.

"I don't know what catalysts are," he said. "I don't want to say things are hunky-dory. The expectations on us are greater than we are capable of achieving immediately and if we're not the Liverpool of yore, we'll work hard to get there."

Has this club deteriorated to such an extent? It didn't seem that way when they created at least 10 chances in the first half, only to find Blackburn 'keeper Paul Robinson in stellar form. But when Liverpool reached the interval still deadlocked, it appeared Hodgson was cursed.

That sense deepened when the goal which his side so richly deserved -- Sotirios Kyrgiakos powering in a header from a corner -- was cancelled out in a comedy of errors. As if the sight of Benjani Mwaruwari haring around Paul Konchesky to cross was not bad enough for Hodgson, El-Hadji Diouf's shot through Jamie Carragher's legs was cleared off the line by Konchesky -- straight into Carragher and back into the net. It was a damning snapshot of Hodgson's defence this season.

Joe Cole's contribution was still not enough to suggest that the fields of Anfield Road are delivering him any salvation but his clipped ball minutes later for Torres, who sprang away from the defence to side-foot home, was the match's most decisive act.

Sam Allardyce justifiably mourned the absence of suspended Chris Samba. "When I see the second goal -- Torres free six yards out for a little side-footer and none of our players near him at all -- it's the reason why I say I'm missing players," he said.

Don't expect any less gloom from the Liverpool manager, though. Three points are needed at Bolton on Sunday to avoid the prospect of facing Chelsea while rooted in the bottom three, but Hodgson has not won any of his last 22 away games. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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