Ewood misery all too familiar for doomed Roy

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Blackburn 3-1 Liverpool
Wednesday, 5th December 2010

Roy Hodgson does not hold particularly fond memories of Ewood Park. The current managers spell in charge of Blackburn Rovers between 1997-1998 ended in dismissal. And Hodgson arrived in Lancashire with the threat of a similar outcome lingering over him. He departed very much aware that the sack is a possibility, if not a probability.

There is little which can be said which has not already been spoken many times before this season. Analysis of yet another demoralising defeat and sorry performance from Hodgson’s Liverpool has a discomfortingly familiar air.

Liverpool were out-fought, out-witted and out-played by a Blackburn Rovers side which, with all due respect, is likely to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League come May. A rain soaked Ewood Park witnessed the latest poor performance from the visitors. A display lacking in direction, inspiration and cutting-edge. But few can say that they were genuinely surprised by the nature of the defeat.

Hodgson cut a dejected figure as he watched on from the technical area. Apparently helpless to divert the direction of a result which was on a one way course from the moment Martin Olsson slotted beneath Pepe Reina, after some slack defending, for Rovers opener.

Benjani Mwaruwari added a brace with goals either side of half team to condemn the Reds to an inevitable defeat – the ninth league reversal of Hodgson’s tenure, at the half way point of the season. Liverpool – or should that be, Steven Gerrard – briefly rallied in the closing stages. The captain pulled a goal back on 81 minutes. Before winning and ultimately missing a penalty kick moments later.

The Reds, though, made the evening all too easy for their hosts and had themselves to blame for their own demise on a number of occasions. Liverpool lacked desire and cutting edge in the final third – despite dominating possession for large periods, especially in the first half. Whilst at the other end, some of the defending for Blackburn’s goals was abysmal.

Surprisingly though, it was the Reds who assumed the dominate role in the opening exchanges. Fernando Torres was perhaps marginally off-side when he raced onto Glen Johnson’s through-ball to fire past Mark Bunn. And after 5 minutes Torres was in the thick of the action again; heading a good Paul Konchesky cross over, from the middle of the area.

Liverpool were clearly on top in midfield at this stage. Yet they appeared completely devoid of confidence and creativity on the ball in the final third to take advantage. The build up was too slow and too often players hesitated on the ball or surrendered possession too easily. David N’Gog and Joe Cole often the culprits.

Despite Liverpool’s dominance of possession, it was always the hosts who seemed the greater goal-scoring threat – especially on the counter-attack. Mame Diouf probably should have broken the deadlock when he got beyond Martin Skrtel at the far post and onto the end of Olsson’s superb left wing cross. But Diouf failed to make proper contact and his tame first time effort was gathered by Reina.

Blackburn were a goal to the good soon after though. Olsson’s 32nd minute strike caught out the Liverpool defence and in the process took the wind out of their sails. Cole’s shot was deflected over the Blackburn bar. But from the resulting set-piece the Reds were undone as Rovers scythed through their defence on the counter-attack.

The home side had almost profited from a similar situation moments earlier – Mame Diouf firing over from a good position. But when Benjani released Olsson behind the Reds defence he did not make the same mistake. Hitting his shot beneath Reina.

With the opening goal any momentum Liverpool had gained evaporated. Steve Kean’s side – without a home win during his short time in charge – were two goals ahead before the break.

Morten Gamst Pedersen clipped the ball in to the Liverpool box. And Benjani was able to hold off the challenge of Sotirios Kyrgiakos far too easily; the striker controlling the ball, swivelling a shooting into the roof of the net .

Liverpool had to rally after half-time, surely? Gerrard fired a shot into the side netting and Cole tested Bunn from distance. But Blackburn were threes goals to the good before the hour mark. The pacey Junior Hoilett cut in from the right flank and out-foxed both Johnson and Skrtel. Before pulling the ball back for Benjani to knock home an easy third from close-range.

Torres hit a first time volley over the bar, when Cole had chipped the ball over the Rovers defence and into his path. But Liverpool could genuinely have conceded more goals.

Hoilett came close to adding to the misery. Just failing to connect with Mame Diouf’s pull back, as Blackburn got in behind the away defence once again. The right-side and Johnson proving particularly vulnerable.

Gerrard got a goal back on 81 minutes. Angling his shot first time into the far corner after Torres’s initial attempt had been blocked. Gerrard then won and penalty moments later. Having picked himself up to take the spot kick, though, the captain shot rashly over the crossbar. Summing up the evening in a instance. The game was all but up by that stage though. And it may also be up for Hodgson sooner rather than later.

The blame for Liverpool’s failings was once again placed firmly on the head on the manager. There was little doubting that when the away following vociferously aired their disapproval at what they were witnessing, in the second period.

Once again there were cries for “Dalglish” and Liverpool fans even joined in a rendition of “You’re getting sacked the morning”, begun by the Blackburn fans. Hodgson was floundering in a torrent of anger and frustration. And seemed at a loss to offer any kind of response, or invoke one from his players.

Time will tell how much longer Hodgson’s torture will be drawn out for. Be it another day, another week, or until the end of the season – one thing is for certain, the time now appears to be ticking on Hodgson’s tenure in the Anfield hot seat.

The predicament for both parties has reached a stage were it seems virtually irreversible. The only question which remains is when NESV decide the correct time is to take action.

Man of the Match
STEVEN GERRARD
The only one who looked capable of making things happen. Proved it when he almost, single-handedly, dragged Liverpool back into it with 10 minutes to go. But fighting for a lost cause.

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