Blackburn 2-3 Liverpool – Last Gasp Carroll Winner at Ewood

By Jonathan Carroll

Ewood Park saw a roller coaster of a game on Tuesday night when Liverpool visited Steve Kean’s Blackburn side. Both sides needed the three points for very different reasons. Blackburn are looking to escape the relegation zone having been bottom at Christmas and Kenny Dalglish was looking to build some much needed confidence going into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton following a poor run of league form.

Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson started in midfield as Liverpool employed a 4-5-1 with Bellamy wide on the right and Carroll the lone striker up front. Glen Johnson returned from injury to play left back as Dalglish rested Jose Enrique, Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt. There was also a return for the ever popular Maxi Rodriguez, a player who has somehow been overlooked too often this season.

Maxi soon made his point for a starting position on Saturday after thirteen minutes. A magnificent driven cross field ball by Martin Skrtel found Craig Bellamy in space on the right and the Welshman’s low cross was turned home by Rodriguez at the far post. Three minutes later Liverpool were two nil up and showing some of their pre-Christmas league form. Jonjo Shelvey done well to dispossess David Dunn in midfield and following a driving run had his shot saved by Paul Robinson, Carroll’s follow-up was blocked but Maxi was on hand to volley home the rebound. Liverpool were cruising.

As so often the case has been this season, the Redmen were the architect’s of their own demise. John Flanagan at right back was lucky not to be sent off after two mistimed challenges and followed it up with a tame back pass on twenty-five minutes that was picked up by Junior Hoilett. The Canadian was upended by Alexander Doni in goal who was immediately given his marching orders. Goalkeeper Brad Jones was brought on in place of Flanagan and promptly made himself a favorite with the traveling Kop with a comfortable save from Yakubu’s penalty. In what has been a tough season for the Australian born keeper and few people would begrudge him his moment in the limelight.

Yakubu would soon make up for his miss with a well taken header from Dunn’s free kick. The Liverpool defending was deplorable with Glen Johnson and Andy Carroll both looking culpable. Brad Jones took down Yakubu in the box for another penalty after taking too long on the ball. This time the former Evertonian made no mistake. To their credit, Liverpool didn’t fold. At times the lack of ability to hold possession was worrying but the relatively young side fought hard and out shot the home side by twelve shots to four. Not a bad statistic considering they played sixty-five minutes with ten men.

Daniel Agger was introduced as Liverpool went three across the back and the Danes influence and ability was there for all to see. Marauding runs forward and an astuteness on the ball makes him one of the best technical players at the club. The Dane had a calming influence on a jittery back line. With the game heading into injury time Sebastian Coates played a long ball forward, Agger flicked on and the much maligned Carroll thumped a powerful header past Robinson to secure all three points. It was a much deserved reward for the big striker who played as much of the game in his own penalty area helping to defend. Carroll’s celebration showed just how much it meant to him in what has been a tough season for the record signing from Newcastle.

Dalglish’s team selection will be widely anticipated for Saturdays game. Carroll should be an automatic inclusion simply because Suarez alone up front has not worked on previous occasions. Brad Jones will get the nod in goal and all going well Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson will also return to the fold for ninety minutes. Maxi Rodriguez set forth his case for inclusion with a two goal haul also. Despite the best effort’s of the Everton coaching staff saying Liverpool are favorites, it is in fact the blue half of Merseyside who are the team in form. The victory at Ewood papers over the cracks but it also gives the Liverpool players a much needed confidence boost for Saturday in what should be one of the most keenly contested Merseyside derbies for some time.

Blackburn Rovers

  • 01 Robinson – 6
  • 03 Mn Olsson – 6
  • 16 Dann – 5
  • 18 Orr (Booked) – 4
  • 31 Hanley (Booked) – 3
  • 08 Dunn (Lowe – 75′ ) – 7
  • 10 Formica – 6 (Booked) (Rochina – 73′ )
  • 15 Nzonzi – 6
  • 21 Ms Olsson – 7
  • 23 Hoilett – 7 (Booked)
  • 24 Yakubu – 7

Substitutes

  • 34 Kean
  • 05 Givet
  • 12 Pedersen
  • 14 Petrovic
  • 35 Lowe
  • 20 Rochina
  • 25 Goodwillie

Liverpool

  • 32 Doni (Sent Off)
  • 02 Johnson – 7 (Agger – 53′ ) – 7
  • 16 Coates – 7
  • 37 Skrtel – 8
  • 38 Flanagan – 3 (Booked) (Jones – 26′ Booked ) – 7
  • 11 Maxi (Booked) – 8 (Jose Enrique – 77′ )
  • 14 Henderson (Booked) – 6
  • 20 Spearing – 7
  • 33 Shelvey – 7
  • 09 Carroll – 7
  • 39 Bellamy – 7 (Booked)

Substitutes

  • 01 Jones
  • 03 Jose Enrique
  • 05 Agger
  • 06 Aurelio
  • 23 Carragher
  • 07 Suarez
  • 18 Kuyt

Match Statistics

Blackburn                            Liverpool

Possession                 52%                                     48%

Shots on Goal              4                                          12

Corners                        4                                            4

Fouls                           16                                          12

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