ANFIELD ONLINE MATCH REPORT
Djibril Cisse saved Liverpool's embarrassment with a fine winner against 10-man Blackburn, who battled for almost an hour after having defender Zurab Khizanishvili sent off for a foul on the France striker.
Cisse had complained long and loud in the last week about being consigned to Liverpool's bench but when he was given his chance to the start by manager Rafael Benitez he struck the goal which gave Liverpool only their second league win of the season.
It was never pretty, with Rovers sitting deep, but a flash a temper from Robbie Savage - who he fouled Boudewijn Zenden after an earlier altercation with the Dutchman - cost his side dearly.
From Alonso's tapped free-kick Cisse smashed the ball home and Rovers were left an increasingly angry and frustrated bunch as their three-match winning run came to an end.
The aftermath of Liverpool's mauling by Chelsea a fortnight ago was that Benitez left out five of the players who were subjected to that damaging 4-1 defeat.
Out went Sami Hyypia, Luis Garcia, Dietmar Hamann, John Arne Riise and the injured Steven Gerrard.
In came defenders Josemi and Stephen Warnock with Mohamed Sissoko getting Gerrard's midfield role and Cisse in the starting line-up for the first time in five matches.
Liverpool were nervy from the start and made matters worse by conceding a string of set-pieces in their own half, from which Savage's delivery caused constant problems.
The Reds needed to make use of their width to get the ball into Peter Crouch and Cisse but their delivery was poor and an attempted hook by Cisse and then a header from Jamie Carragher was the closest they came to scoring in the opening spell.
Blackburn were their competitive selves, quick and destructive, and that made Liverpool hurry their passes.
Shefki Kuqi and Savage had half-chances but Liverpool by now were beginning to make inroads.
After 33 minutes there was uproar when Cisse was brought down on the edge of the box by Zurab Khizanishvili.
Initially referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot but then went to consult his assistant, who was flagging furiously.
After two conversations with his colleague and Halsey sought out the Georgia defender and promptly showed him the red card before awarding a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.
Television replays showed the tackle was just outside and that another Blackburn defender was coming in on the left. In such circumstances, the ex-Rangers man could hardly have been considered the 'last man'.
The decision enraged the entire Blackburn bench as well as their team and when Zenden took the free-kick, it clipped the crossbar and spun into the Kop. Blackburn took off striker Paul Dickov and sent on an extra defender in Andy Todd.
Liverpool felt able to replace defender Josemi with Luis Garcia on the hour, by now having vast amounts of possession.
But still there was no genuine chances as crosses drifted aimlessly across the box while Rovers' defenders Lucas Neill and Ryan Nelsen battled away to keep Liverpool at arm's length.
Brad Friedel was finally called into action to tip over a Cisse effort before Liverpool sent on Fernando Morientes and John Arne Riise for Warnock and Crouch.
The game then changed dramatically after referee Halsey had failed to penalise Zenden for a foul on Savage as the furious Welshman fouled the Dutchman at the first opportunity.
And it was very costly, with Alonso touching the ball for Cisse to drill past Freidel's right hand into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Cisse theatrically ran to the bench to shake Benitez's hand as Anfield erupted with sheer relief.
Rovers then had David Bentley booked for a foul on Zenden, Lucas Neill for dissent and then Savage for a foul on Steve Finnan.
Morientes missed a great chance to finish things when Friedel fumbled a 20-yard Riise strike and the Spain striker pushed the rebound wide. Morientes then headed a Zenden cross over the top but, ultimately, one goal was enough.
Liverpool: Reina, Josemi (Luis Garcia 60), Carragher, Traore, Warnock (Riise 74), Finnan, Sissoko, Alonso, Zenden, Crouch (Morientes 66), Cisse.
Subs Not Used: Hamann, Carson.
Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Khizanishvili, Nelsen, Gray, Bentley, Tugay (Mokoena 67), Savage, Pedersen (Emerton 67), Dickov (Todd 35), Kuqi.
Sent Off: Khizanishvili (33).
Booked: Bentley, Neill, Savage.
Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).
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|Match Report filed: 15 October 2005|