The Reds saw off Blackburn in what was a strange game. It was never in much danger that the Reds would lose but it just never seemed to quite happen right. Definitely a case of after the Lords mayor's show this one. Once the Reds took the lead it was pretty much game over although you always relax more with a second.
The two sides came out at Anfield and before the game had a minute's silence to remember the 96 fans who should have been in the crowd. They are always there in spirit that's for sure.
Blackburn got the game started attacking the Kop end. The first half in particular was a strange one. Clearly far too early in the day for many to get excited over it. It left Anfield rather quiet as the game was played. Nothing of much excitement on the pitch either as the players just stroked the ball around at a slow pace. Rovers for their part weren't much better and apart from Santa Cruz they never really looked a threat.
The Reds should've taken the lead on nine minutes when Gerrard whipped a corner in and Torres headed just wide of the goal. A minute later and Friedel had to rush out of his goal to get rid of the ball as Torres nearly intercepted a back pass.
Midway through the half there then started to be a few strange decisions affecting both sides. Gerrard looked for a penalty and got the ball before Friedel slid out. Gerrard then went down under the challenge but the ref waved play on. I can only assume that was because Gerrard had probably poked the ball out for a goal kick rather than controlling it.
Alan Wiley then waved away blatant tugging back on Babel by Samba. Babel was actually told to get more aggressive at that point by Rafa and not just pull up despite the foul.
On twenty five minutes Gerrard was again enraged when he looked to go through on goal only for Samba to shoulder charge him out of the game. At the time I remember thinking that it was a shoulder charge but I'm not convinced having seen a replay and Gerrard was unlucky.
The worst decision of the day came when Rovers were somehow awarded a goal kick at one point. The Reds shot on goal and it clearly cannoned out off a Rovers player. The linesman gave a corner only to then look at the ref and change his mind. This was as blatant as they come.
Rovers had a good chance on thirty five minutes when Santa Cruz created some space in the area and then shot to the near post but Reina got down well.
The half though couldn't end quick enough for me. The half was just rather dull and missing so much of what you want to see. A good half time team talk was needed to wake everyone up.
Before the second half started both Warnock and then Friedel came down to acknowledge the Kop. Always nice to see that happening. The second half got underway with Torres shooting at goal straight away but it sailed wide of the target.
The half was definitely a lot more up tempo but not the classiest of games. The Reds did start creating a few more chances without massively troubling Friedel in the Reds goal.
It took an inspired substitution ultimately though to change it for the Reds. Benayoun replaced Babel on fifty nine minutes and the Israeli was heavily involved in the build up to the goal.
Benayoun won the ball near the area and played it to Gerrard who then moved inside and played a neat one two with Lucas before passing Samba and slotting home past Friedel.
It set the game up well now for the Reds to go on and won it but the Reds did become a little casual afterwards. The one thing this side hasn't quite mastered yet is retaining possession and finishing games off.
Rovers sensed this and stuck to their task of getting back in to the game. On seventy two minutes the Reds so nearly paid the price as well as Roberts threatened to go clean through only for Skrtel to bring him down. Skrtel for me was lucky to only see yellow for the foul. I can only assume that despite being last man the ref decided he was too far away from goal to show Red. That incensed some of the Rovers players but a strange decision from the ref was something quite common through the day.
The Reds finally went two up on eighty two minutes when Torres scored an excellent header. Lucas fed Gerrard down the right and his excellent cross was headed home by Torres with Benayoun on hand behind had he missed the chance.
That settled the game right down and put the points in the bag. Steven Gerrard went down like a lead balloon with five minutes to go. It was in the box and he was clearly looking for a penalty and once the initial appeals died down most fans were quite embarrassed for Gerrard and he was lucky not to get booked for it.
Fernando Torres went off to a standing ovation with four minutes to go and Andriy Voronin came on in his place. A couple of minutes later and Riise replaced Alonso who asked to be replaced.
There was still time for more goals though as Voronin got on the end of a Riise cross within the box to make it 3-0.
In injury time the Reds conceded a well taken volley that they failed to clear. Santa Cruz capitalised on a none clearance within the area to fire past Reina. It didn't prove costly in any way ultimately apart from the clean sheet going.
MotM : Dirk Kuyt - worked incredibly hard throughout the whole game and won an awful lot of balls back for the Reds. Plaudits on the day will inevitably point to Gerrard who thrust the Reds up a gear but Kuyt worked so hard all day.