Premier League – Liverpool cruise past Bolton
Liverpool moved back into fourth place with a comfortable 3-1 win over Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium.
Liverpool asserted their authority after the break though, and a Ryan Babel strike followed by a fine volley from Fabio Aurelio put the game to bed. Tamir Cohen‘s header reduced the arrears, but was no more than a consolation.
The result keeps Liverpool firmly in the hunt for the fourth Champions League place, while Bolton remain in 17th.
Bolton had not lost to Liverpool at the Reebok for over five years, and it was they who created the better chances in the opening 10 minutes.
The first of these was an inswinging El-Hadji Diouf free-kick which came back off the crossbar after just five minutes.
The home fans were out of their seats again as a Joey O’Brien header at the back post flashed across the face of goal, though the ball evaded the other white shirts in the area, allowing Liverpool to hack clear.
Bolton’s impressive start was totally undone on 11 minutes though when Gerrard’s speculative strike from the edge of the area bounced awkwardly in front of Jaaskelainen, hitting the Finn on the head and spinning across the line.
Babel’s pace became an increasing factor as the half wore on, and Jaaskelainen somewhat made amends for his earlier gaffe with a fine stop from the Dutchman after he had turned Gretar Steinsson inside out.
Bolton remained a threat, though, and went close to equalising when Kevin Davies ghosted in behind Martin Skrtel to meet Kevin Nolan‘s cross, forcing Pepe Reina into an excellent low save with a downward header.
While the pace of Liverpool’s attack kept the Bolton defence stretched, the home fans continued to create chances, with Gary Cahill heading wide from an inviting position at the near post on the half-hour mark.
If the Bolton fans were by this point feeling a little aggrieved not to be at least on level terms, then they would soon be relieved not to have fallen further behind.
Babel twice more burst through the defence, only to see his efforts stopped by a last-ditch challenge from Cahill and another fine stop from Jaaskelainen.
Bolton replaced the injured Nolan with Cohen at half-time, though never again regained the urgency and verve they had displayed in the first half as Liverpool went on to impose their authority on the game.
A quick Liverpool break on 60 minutes saw Dirk Kuyt lash a low shot onto the post, and when Gary Cahill failed to clear completely, Babel was on hand to slam home past Jaaskelainen.
Andy O’Brien survived a penalty appeal after Gerrard’s shot struck his hand following fine work from Babel and Aurelio on the left flank, though the game was over as a contest when a Gerrard corner was cleared only as far as Aurelio on the edge of the area.
The Brazilian chested the ball down, and unleashed a swerving left-foot volley that left the ‘keeper with no chance.
The home fans were given a brief cheer when Cohen reduced Bolton’s arrears from Matthew Taylor‘s corner. However the goal was not to be the start of a late fightback as Liverpool comfortably saw out the remaining minutes.