Liverpool 1 Bolton Wanderers 0
Rafael Benitez kept it close to his chest, but with all the attention on whether there’d be any strikers available for the Reds, the opposite end of the pitch had brought problems for Liverpool. Jerzy Dudek had returned from internation duty for Poland with a hamstring problem, and so in stepped England’s under-21 keeper Scott Carson.
Dudek probably had one eye on Rome, where Liverpool’s most famous fan – Pope John Paul II – was going through the last moments of his life. The Polish Pontiff had once been a goalkeeper himself, and had invited Dudek to the Vatican in 2003 prior to an Italy-Poland game. Dudek was amazed to hear how much the Pope knew about him and about Liverpool.
Carson had been criticised heavily after England Under-21’s draw on Good Friday, a clearance he made rebounding of an opponent and leading to a late equaliser. Yet he’d made many saves prior to that to keep his team in the game. Today for Liverpool he kept a clean sheet and made numerous saves against a rough and tumble Bolton side.
Fernando Morientes had been declared fit by Rafael Benitez yesterday, but in fact was only named as a substitute. He spent most of the second half warming up, and actually didn’t arrive until 12 minutes from the end.
Liverpool started the game with a front-two of Gerrard and Garcia, neither of the two strikers, and although many chances were created it was obvious that Liverpool were missing that instinctual finish a striker would bring.
After an hour had gone Rafael Benitez felt it was time for a change, and brought on another attacking midfielder – Anthony Le Tallec – in place of John Arne Riise. The game continued to move from end to end, with Liverpool making most chances, yet neither goal ever looked like it would be breached. Steve Finnan cleared off the line for Liverpool three times.
John Welsh was brought into the starting line-up today – he’d played some excellent football over 135 minutes for the England under-21s during the Easter break, and today played in Steven Gerrard’s midfield position to begin with. He did his future prospects at Anfield no harm with an excellent performance, before being replaced on 72 minutes by Vladimir Smicer.
In the end, with Liverpool using so many different players as strikers today, it was inevitable that a Liverpool goal would come from elsewhere. Liverpool have had many cult-heros over the years, players who they love for reasons that don’t always seem to be related to the quality of the player on the field. Igor Biscan has never quite made it as a regular at Anfield, spending the last part of the Houllier reign as a centre-half, before getting some occasional appearances under Benitez in his natural midfield position. Biscan has shown some glimpses this season of why Liverpool paid so much for him during the early days of Gerard Houllier’s management, but feels he’s not getting as many chances as he’d like. His contract is about to end and he’s sure that he’ll be playing elsewhere next season. By heading into the back of the net today five minutes from the end of a close and difficult tie, the goal proving to be the winner, Biscan will now be sure of a warm welcome should he return with an opposition team next season, and an even warmer welcome should be decide to stay.
Liverpool now move within one point of Everton, who play relegation-threatened West Brom tomorrow at the Hawthorns.
Team: Carson, Finnan, Traore, Carragher, Pellegrino, Welsh (Smicer 72), Biscan, Riise (Le Tallec, 60), Garcia, Nunez (Morientes 78), Gerrard.
Other subs: Dudek, Hyypia.
Booked: Pellegrino 75
Goals: Biscan 85