If Roy Hodgson’s post-match verdict the previous weekend, proclaiming that his team had produced their best performance of the season against Everton, had been received with general disbelief by all; there are likely to be few who would offer the same reaction if similar words were used to sum up this home victory against Blackburn Rovers.
It may, admittedly, have been a dour season thus far but this was Liverpool’s best all round performance this campaign to date. And it was a much, much needed one. No doubt relief, as much as joy, greeted the final whistle at Anfield on Sunday. This result failed to lift the Reds out of the Premier League relegation zone, but is a step in the right direction none the less.
There will have been plenty of encouraging factors for Roy Hodgson to take from the match. Generally solid at the back, plenty of chances created, a much more lively and effective Fernando Torres – if still some way off his best – rewarded with a goal, and improved performances from many in this previously under-performing Liverpool team.
Yet the most encouraging positive to take from a well-earned, if laboured, victory was the much more assertive and attacking manner in which in was attained. Rather than the cautious, non-committal Liverpool which we have seen for much of the season, and which, quite frankly, has regular been failing in its obvious objectives. This was a far more expansive and attack-minded performance – well for 70 minutes at least. A Liverpool team actually sent out first-and-foremost to beat the opposition at Anfield.
The NESV bigwigs – minus the ill John W Henry – present at Anfield were treated to the first Liverpool goals and, most importantly, the first 3 points of their reign. And they will finally have been given a first hand insight into the fact that there is still quality remaining in this Liverpool squad. Even if in certain areas this is in short supply. A foundation to be built from perhaps.
Although Liverpool’s goals were struck after half-time – it was a vibrant first half display which will have been most encouraging for all of a red persuasion inside Anfield. Indeed the home side could well have been significantly more than the one goal to the good which the found themselves in when Blackburn pilfered a rather fortunate equaliser.
Joe Cole had the first great chance to open the scoring, when – the much improved – Maxi Rodriguez cleverly cut the ball back to the summer signing, having been released by Torres. Paul Robinson saved well with his feet and Raul Meireles probably should have scored from the rebound, although off-balance.
Robinson – resolute throughout – was comfortably Blackburn’s best player on the day. And it was largely the former England ‘keeper whom Sam Allardyce’s men had to thank for preventing Liverpool from finding the back of the net sooner than they did.
A period of five minutes early in the second half, when all three goals were scored, ultimately decided the contest.
The obvious riposte would be the argument that this was hardly to top class opposition and Liverpool should be expected to win comfortably anyway. After all, this was only Blackburn. A side that has an obvious dearth in quality when compared to sides towards the top of the division and find themselves residing in a similar region of the league table as the Reds at present.
However to reach this conclusion would be somewhat missing the point.