Goals from Liverpool’s dynamic duo of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres gave the Reds a much needed win to keep them in the race for fourth place against Blackburn on Sunday.
With Man City having won at Chelsea the day before and Spurs claiming three points against Everton to move them back into fourth, a win over Sam Allardyce’s side was crucial.
Buoyed by the return of Torres after 6 weeks out, Liverpool enjoyed a bright first half and led 2-1 at half-time. The second half wasn’t so pretty with Rovers’ over-physical style preventing any football breaking out and the referee failing to punish their offences.
BBC Sport Report
Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres scored as Liverpool won a bad-tempered contest against Blackburn to move to within one point of fourth spot.
Gerrard put Liverpool ahead with a left-foot shot from six yards before Keith Andrews levelled from the spot after a Jamie Carragher handball.
An unmarked Torres slid home from close range to restore Liverpool’s lead.
Gerrard and El-Hadji Diouf exchanged heated words before the break while Pepe Reina denied Chris Samba late on.
There is no love lost between Reds boss Rafa Benitez and Rovers counterpart Sam Allardyce – and little that happened on the pitch is likely to lead to any form of reconciliation.
Steven Nzonzi should have been sent off after pushing Lucas in the face and there were a series of thunderous challenges during a fully committed contest that saw Benitez repeatedly complain to the fourth official.
It was far from vintage Liverpool and Rovers can consider themselves unfortunate to have left Anfield pointless.
But the Reds will be pleased to have returned to winning ways having failed to score in their previous two games.
Torres, who has been dogged by groin and knee injuries, was back in the starting XI for the first time since 13 January, and understandably not at his fluent best.
But there was an unmistakeable electricity around the ground every time the Spain striker was in possession.
And the fact that he and Gerrard both found the net ended a sequence of six Premier League games during which Dirk Kuyt had been the only Liverpool player to have scored.
The wait goes on for Allardyce to earn his first win as a manager at Anfield, but there was plenty to suggest from his team’s performance that they will climb the table during the remaining weeks of the season.
Blackburn started brightly and created several early chances, with the recalled Samba heading tamely at goal, Martin Olsson narrowly missing from distance and Nikola Kalinic shooting across goal but marginally wide.
Their early dominance perhaps warranted a goal and Rovers can consider themselves extremely unlucky to find themselves trailing after 20 minutes.
A rare period of crisp interplay concluded with a heavy touch from Gerrard that had the effect of catching Samba flat-footed and allowed the Liverpool skipper the time and space to drill the ball beyond Paul Robinson from a tight angle.
Reina twice denied Morten Gamst Pedersen, while Dirk Kuyt headed wide for Liverpool before Rovers equalised from the penalty spot after Carragher was adjudged to have handled while he was led on the floor, preventing Kalinic from collecting the ball.
Liverpool, who had seen the recalled Fabio Aurelio limp off, went into the break with their lead restored after Torres converted Maxi Rodriguez’s low cross.
But the final minutes of the half were dominated by a prolonged verbal exchange between Gerrard and former Liverpool forward Diouf that started after Rovers had a second penalty appeal turned down.
The two players had to be separated by a steward as they made their way into the tunnel at the break.
The first dramatic action after the restart involved another unsightly incident as Nzonzi pushed Lucas in the face and was extremely fortunate to escape with a booking.
Actual footballing drama remained at a premium but Daniel Agger headed over from a Gerrard free-kick while an ambitious overhead kick from Kuyt missed the target.
Rovers substitute Vince Grella missed from 20 yards late on before Reina pulled off a sensational injury-time save from Samba’s header that had deflected off Kuyt.