The Reds got back to winning ways against Bolton thanks too using their heads. Three headed goals saw Bolton crash to defeat at the hands of a better Reds side. The Reds welcomed Harry Kewell back after injury and his presence alongside Smicer helped the Reds side. Bolton returned to the ground where they had progressed in the League Cup just a few weeks ago hoping to continue their decent form but largely failed to spark on the day.
Before the game kicked off Steven Gerrard called for a huddle near the centre circle as one last rallying call for the stuttering Reds. Bolton got the game underway attacking the Kop end in the first half. Bolton went on the attack straight from the start but Hyypia was on hand early as Kevin Davies shaped to shoot on goal. Two minutes later and Kirkland was alert to grab a headed back pass from Otsemobor before Djorkaeff could pounce.
Vladimir Smicer had the first real chance for the Reds as Pongolle set him up in the area but the Czech star couldn't keep his shot down. On eight minutes Nicky Hunt went in heavy on John Arne Riise seconds after being awarded a free kick. Riise went down and required treatment on his leg and was forced to leave the pitch following Dave Galley's treatment.
Despite a slow start to the game the Reds were looking a little brighter. Bolton were in no rush throughout the early exchanges and had very little about them attacking wise. Sinama Pongolle won a free kick on the edge of the Bolton box. Despite the fact he was brought down Pongolle certainly made an attempt to win extra points from the diving judges as he leapt through the air. Jeff Winter awarded the free kick but also warned Pongolle not to use the diving tactics later in the game.
Gerrard bent the free kick straight at the Bolton keeper though and minutes later Riise shot straight at the keeper as well as he was forced inside on to his right foot which has very little power in it. The Reds were slowly starting to be the side on top and on eighteen minutes Smicer again went close with a header but this one went just wide of the post.
Halfway though the half the Reds started to up the pressure on Bolton. Campo conceded a corner kick which the Reds hit to the back post. Hyypia found himself completely unmarked, pulled the ball down before shooting on target. His country compatriot pulled off a save though pushing the ball over for another corner. The Giant Finn had a few words with the Bolton keeper after that save.
Six minutes later and Jaaskelainen caused all type of panic in the Bolton area as he came to punch a corner. He just made contact with the ball but only push it up in the air and dropping towards his own net. He then collected the ball in the air at the second attempt but as he was falling into his own net flung the ball over for a corner. The Reds had the keeper under intense pressure and made that count on the half hour when Hyypia had the last laugh. Sami rose well from a running jump to power the ball home past the static keeper.
The lead was deserved and meant they had something to show for their pressure. Now was the time to keep it going and build on it. Dietmar Hamann went down after thirty three minutes and required treatment after Per Frandsen clattered into the German. It seemed the only thing the Bolton midfielder could do on the day and he eventually picked up a yellow card for his sins in the second half. Kewell had a shot spilled by the Bolton keeper just seven minutes before half time but Hunt nipped in to clear the danger before the Reds could react. Jaaskelainen was really suffering and was desperate for half time to arrive.
On forty one minutes Ivan Campo went close at the back post when he should have done better. His unmarked header went wide of the far post and the midfielder new he'd missed a golden chance as he lay prostrate on the ground. A minute later though he Reds really should have gone two up as Pongolle raced clear for the second time in the half. He never seemed to get the ball under full control though and from the edge of the area hit a weak shot to the keeper. The Reds went in at half time just a goal up then but clearly on top.
Bolton were out first for the second half fired up and raring to go. The Reds got the half underway in front of the rather quiet crowd who seemed to more worried about Reds form of late or simply hungover. Just two minutes in to the half though with many fans still absent from their seats Riise sent in a teasing cross. Pongolle raced in and from eight yards out sent the ball powering in to the back of the Kop goal. The young striker had worked really hard throughout the first half and despite missing a couple of chances made no mistake with the bullet header for his first goal at the Kop end.
A minute later and the French gem nearly created a third goal for the Reds. He got to the ball just before Jaaskelainen in the Bolton area but couldn't pick out a Red shirt with his pull back off the bye line. Bolton had seen enough and made a triple substitution with Okocha, Djorkaeff and Campo all being withdrawn for fresh legs. Campo went straight down the tunnel after leaving the pitch.
The subs had been on the pitch just four minutes when the Reds went three up and it was another excellent header. This time it was Vladimir Smicer who nipped in well to score. Murphy whipped in a free kick towards the penalty spot and Smicer raced in unmarked to guide the ball in to the bottom corner of the net. Smicer's job looked simple but he made it look that way as the Reds were in complete control of the game. Most fans were starting to think of really kicking on and getting four or five at this point to be honest.
In reality though the game went a bit stagnant at this point. The Reds were content with the ease of the game whilst Bolton huffed and puffed with no return at all. Cruising in the game the Reds could have been thinking about bring Le Tallec on at this point to settle him down in a game more. However it was Heskey and Diouf who arrived for Pongolle and Kewell. Kewell had started to struggle a little for pace and Diouf came on and looked like he wanted to prove a point after being dropped. Heskey didn't seem to react like that though and was largely anonymous for the twenty four minutes he was on the pitch.
The Reds stayed in control of the game and when Le Tallec was finally brought on to replace Smicer there was just eleven minutes left on the clock. Bolton did manage a goal with five minutes left on the clock which rocked the Reds a little. Pedersen swept the ball home after the Reds failed to clear their lines. The initial cross wasn't challenged for and then no-one made a real challenge for the ball. A shot came in and Pedersen controlled the ball turned Hyypia and swept the ball past Kirkland and Riise on the line.
The Reds played out the last five minutes a bit edgy to be honest. Rather than getting the ball down and keeping it, passing to a Red shirt and moving up the other end of the pitch they tended to gift possession back to Bolton too easily. Riise did go close with a couple of minutes left on the clock though with a low left footed drive but it went a inches past the far post. Riise then was forced off after treatment in the final minute of the game as Hunt again clattered him. The Reds though never came under any intense pressure and finished off as winners.
Not a vintage performance by any means but one that did go some way to restoring confidence. When they were on top the Reds turned pressure into goals which meant they could relax far more in the game. If they had wanted to really push it then there were more goals for the taking. The only disappointing things in the game for me were the form - or lack of form from Danny Murphy, the lack of a reaction from Heskey after being brought on and the quietness of the crowd. Continue to play and get results like this though and the crowd will soon wake up again.
MotM : Sami Hyypia - A solid performance from the big Finn. Dominant and commanding at the back his goal was superbly taken and well deserved. This was much more like the old Sami. Gerrard and Pongolle also worked really hard for the team throughout their times on the pitch.