Liverpool maintained their position at the top of the Premiership with a vastly improved last 25 minutes against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Some surprised glances were exchanged amongst Liverpool fans enjoying the pre-match atmosphere in the crisp sunshine of Blackburn as Insua was given a long overdue game at left back in the Premiership and Robbie Keane was left on the bench.
Daniel Agger, reported to be at the centre of a ‘double my pay or I’m off’ rumour, was also left out for the star of Monday night – Sami Hyypia.
Dirk Kuyt was select to play up front and Albert Riera, another player who’s form has dipped was replaced by Ryan Babel on the left.
With all the changes and around 7,000 Liverpool fans hoping to stay top of the league, the game started well and the reds saw a lot of the ball, but quickly it became apparent that the players were still suffering from nerves. Kuyt looked isolate up front and both Babel and Benayoun failed to control the flanks – either breaking inside losing the ball or opting to pass back.
Even Captain Steven Gerrard had a miserable time. None of the reds seemed keen to over-commit and Blackburn had the chance of the half when they struck the cross-bar. Liverpool had the lions share of possession but failed to register a single shot that trouble the Blackburn keeper.
As the half wore on, even the reds support was feeling the pressure. Would the goals ever start to flow.
There wasn’t much improvement in the second half. Alonso tried his luck with one of his trademark ‘shoot from my own half’ routines, and then Babel made his first decent move of the game when his pace and skill helped him to fashion a great chance for the reds.
Unfortunately for Ryan, he was already earmarked to make way for Nabil El Zhar who came on to replace him.
Then the game turned. A move saw Kuyt unable to control the ball and Xabi Alonso step up to place the ball in to the corner as cool as you would expect from the Spaniard.
The reds got a second reward when Benayoun created a bit of room for himself and fired in from a tight angle.
Blackburn threatened to spoil the party with a goal from Santa Cruz in the final five minutes, but the reds held their nerve and on a counter attack – Steven Gerrard carefully placed the ball in the net after Robinson had been caught out of position.
Not pretty, not the best but three more goals and top of the league, still.
Post Match Reaction
“We have shown we can manage the pressure. When you have a game like this, you know you might have problems.”But we were more clinical than other days and that is important with the Christmas programme coming up.
“We are in a very good position so it is vital we play with confidence and that the players pass the ball well.”
“It was an exceptional performance. We have not got the three points but we have to take some positives from the game.”It is always difficult against Liverpool but we matched them for long spells and that was pleasing.
“The scoreline was harsh and this might be the step we need to push on and get up the table.”
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Insua, Benayoun (Riera 87), Mascherano (Leiva Lucas 83), Alonso, Babel (El Zhar 64), Gerrard, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Keane.
Booked: Babel, Arbeloa.
Goals: Alonso 69, Benayoun 79, Gerrard 90.
Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Andrews, Kerimoglu (Vogel 84), Pedersen (McCarthy 81), Roque Santa Cruz, Derbyshire (Treacy 90).
Subs Not Used: Brown, Villanueva, Simpson, Fowler.
Booked: Andrews, Warnock.
Goals: Roque Santa Cruz 86.
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
Match Thread, video clips of the game and post match discussion here
Liverpool Possession: 62%. Shots: 9 (On target = 6 ). 491 accurate passes. 59 bad passes.
Blackburn Possession: 38% Shots: 7 (On target = 2). 247 accurate passes. 34 bad passes.