Liverpool 0-0 Bolton: 5 talking points as replay adds another game to busy February fixtures

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Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool were held to a goalless draw on a frustrating afternoon against Neil Lennon’s battling Bolton side at Anfield, and Ben Twelves picks five discussion points from the tie.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 24, 2015: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Bolton Wanderers' Dorian Dervite during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parnaby/Propaganda)

Liverpool avoided an upset on a day of shocks in the FA Cup but Brendan Rodgers watched his side held to a disappointing 0-0 by a resilient Bolton in the fourth round clash.

The Reds produced a dominant display throughout – enjoying 68% of the possession – but it was a lack of spark and composure in the final third that proved their undoing, as they were kept out by a combination of the resolute opposition defence and ‘keeper Adam Bogdan, whose impressive performance earned his side a lucrative replay.

Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling all saw their efforts saved by the Bolton goalkeeper as the match ended goalless, meaning the Reds now face the prospect of a tricky replay in 10 days’ time in order to progress to the fifth round and here are five discussion topics from the game.

 

Reds lack ruthlessness in front of goal

In a decent enough performance on the day, it was only the Reds decision making and finishing in the final third that proved the downside on Saturday evening.

While credit must also go to Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan who made a number of excellent saves, it could be argued that the Trotter’ stopper shouldn’t have been in a position to be able to make a heroic intervention and that it was due to poor finishing that he was allowed to keep the ball out of the net.

A great opportunity fell to the wrong man in Javi Manquillo as the Spaniard dragged his effort hopelessly wide in front of the Kop before Bogdan thwarted efforts from Sterling, Lucas and Borini – who he denied with an one-handed save at full stretch as the Italian searched for the far corner despite the near post gaping.

As Sterling struggles for consistency in front of goal in his striking position, the lack of a genuine striker was evident again and Daniel Sturridge’s return can’t come quickly enough.

 

Unneeded draw adds to fixture congestion

The week commencing February 2nd will see the Reds head to the Macron Stadium for the fourth round replay but the unwanted fixture adds to an already congested schedule for Liverpool.

It means Rodgers’ side will now face six games in what will be a hectic month which includes the opening of the Europa League campaign with two matches against Besiktas, as well as tough Premier League fixtures in the Goodison Derby, Tottenham at Anfield and a trip to Champions League chasing Southampton.

Those six fixtures – with the added possibility of the League Cup final should Liverpool make it – finish just in time for the beginning of March where Rodgers’ men then host title-chasing Manchester City and United in the same month, plus the prospect of more European fixtures depending on the outcome from February’s matches.

It really will be a testing time for Rodgers and his squad as the business end of the season draws closer and the replay certainly helps no-one.

 

Rusty Returnees: Johnson, Enrique, Manquillo, Allen & Lallana fail to impress

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 24, 2015: Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Bolton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parnaby/Propaganda)

As Rodgers confirmed would be the case in his pre-match press conference, the Liverpool boss made five changes to his side from the XI that started against Chelsea last time out, but the alterations didn’t work as planned.

Occupying the wing-back positions, Jose Enrique and Javi Manquillo produced uninspiring performances epitomised by the pair being withdrawn at different stages of the game and Johnson showed why he mustn’t be considered for a role in the back three.

Joe Allen, after a duration out injured, displayed a real rustiness in the midfield where the Welshman failed to have an impact, but the biggest disappointment of those entering the side was Lallana as the £25million man put in a poor performance in a game in which he really should be making more of an impression in.

The summer arrival endured a poor afternoon as he was too slow in possession a number of times, struggled to provide the link between midfield and attack, and his touch and weight of pass in the final third often led to the breakdown of attacks.

It was a chance for the returning players to force their way into the Liverpool manager’s thoughts, but none of them took the opportunity presented.

 

Difficulty breaking down deep defences

Not for the first time this season Rodgers’ Reds failed to find the break through against a side set up to defend deep and close the space for the Liverpool attack to operate.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 24, 2015: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Bolton Wanderers' Dorian Dervite during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parnaby/Propaganda)

Lennon’s Bolton joined Aston Villa, Sunderland and Hull in the list of clubs to leave Anfield with a clean sheet having kept the Reds at bay and while Liverpool did make Bogdan work in the Wanderers goal, Rodgers side were heavily restricted to speculative efforts from outside the box as they struggled to conjure up anything clear cut.

Liverpool recorded 24 shots to the away sides seven – registering nine on target to Bolton’s zero – but of the nine on target attempts, only two were from inside the 18 yard box from Sterling and Borini who watched his header flash agonisingly wide in the dying moments of the game.

The Liverpool attack has improved immeasurably since the formation switch but it’s evident that against certain types of defence that the Reds still have problems to overcome.

 

Captain Henderson drives the Reds

One positive from the stalemate was undoubtedly the performance from the ever-improving Jordan Henderson, and the current vice-captain demonstrated once again his suitability to take the armband in the not too distant future.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 24, 2015: Liverpool's Jordan Henderson in action against Bolton Wanderers during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parnaby/Propaganda)

Henderson drove the Reds on in the game – constantly finding incisive forward passes throughout to set the attack on their way – and alongside his excellent use of the ball and ability to quicken the tempo of the Reds play from the middle of the park, it was the 24-year-olds desire to drive the team forward that caught the eye.

The skipper took responsibility to try and make the difference, and his driving force was epitomised by his shout for a penalty as the clock ticked down in the second half – where after playing a one-two and bursting into the Kop end box – former red Jay Spearing nudged the marauding midfielder to the floor for what looked a certain penalty just as he appeared certain to nick a late winner.

Up next for Liverpool is the much anticipated League Cup second leg against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

 

LIVERPOOL 0-0 BOLTON

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