Home » EPL, Featured, Latest » Match Report: Blackburn 2 Liverpool 3

Andy Carroll’s stoppage-time header gave Liverpool victory on a farcical night in Blackburn when, for the second time in three matches, Kenny Dalglish saw his goalkeeper receive a red card that will suspend him from Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton at Wembley.

First it was José Reina’s foolish use of the head at Newcastle. At Ewood Park it was the turn of his understudy, Doni, to see red for a professional foul on Junior Hoilett that brought Brad Jones into the Liverpool goal five months after the death of his son. Jones also flirted with red in the penalty that looked to have salvaged a point for Blackburn but, in the dying seconds, Carroll threw himself at Daniel Agger’s header to secure a first win in five matches for the Anfield club.

There was no disguising the magnitude of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton in Dalglish’s team selection, despite his mantra of focusing only on the next game, as the Liverpool manager made six changes to the side that drew with Aston Villa.

In came Carroll, Craig Bellamy, Maxi Rodriguez, Sebastián Coates, Jay Spearing and Glen Johnson, who along with the fit-again Daniel Agger offers hope of greater defensive solidity for the weeks ahead, while the Dane, Luis Suárez, José Enrique, Jamie Carragher and Dirk Kuyt dropped to the bench. Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing were given the night off completely but the luxury must have been tinged with unease, for the latter at least, as his replacement flourished.

Dalglish’s limited deployment of Maxi Rodríguez has bewildered throughout a season in which Liverpool have lacked penetration and intelligent movement in attack. It still does, after the Argentinean injected both into the left of Liverpool’s forward line and dragged the visitors into a comfort zone with only 16 minutes on the clock.

The opening goal was route one in style. Carroll cut out a Blackburn free-kick into the Liverpool area, given when Jon Flanagan commenced his poor night with a yellow card for a foul on Martin Olsson, and played it safe to Martin Skrtel. His 80-yard ball sent Bellamy scurrying away down the right and the cross was perfectly measured across goal for Rodríguez to tap in at the far post. Three minutes later, he scored for the sixth time in 16 appearances this season from a similar position. Jonjo Shelvey was given licence to roam through the Rovers’ midfield and, though Paul Robinson saved his low drive and his defenders blocked Carroll’s follow-up, the ball sat up invitingly for the former Atlético Madrid captain to volley into an empty net.

Liverpool were dominating with a composure and cutting edge that has escaped them frequently this season and the prospect of a damaging fourth straight defeat reignited jeers for Steve Kean’s team from the Rovers faithful.

Flanagan was fortunate to escape a second booking for a blatant foul on Martin Olsson, a point made clear by the referee Anthony Taylor to the stand-in captain Skrtel. Moments later the young Liverpool right-back underhit a back-pass towards his goalkeeper Doni that enabled Junior Hoilett to intercept and, when he was felled by the Brazilian, a red card followed for Reina’s replacement.

As Doni took an age to leave the pitch, no doubt with hopes of a Wembley appearance deserting him, Liverpool’s third-choice goalkeeper Jones stripped off ahead of his first league outing for the Anfield club and his first display since losing his young son Luca to leukaemia.

The Australian’s first touch was to stop a truly atrocious penalty from an overly-casual Yakubu Ayegbeni, prompting wild celebrations from Reina and others on the Liverpool bench.

Jones, a £2.5m signing from Middlesbrough under Roy Hodgson, was beaten by Yakubu after Bellamy had been penalised for handball. From David Dunn’s free-kick, the Nigeria international drifted behind Johnson and made amends for his penalty ‘attempt’ with a glancing header into the far corner.

Grant Hanley came close to converting a fine left-wing cross from Martin Olsson as Blackburn inevitably improved against the 10 men. There was less of an excuse for Carroll early in the second half when, from an almost identical position two yards from goal, he connected with a Bellamy corner but sent a diving header wide.

Despite the numerical disadvantage Liverpool continued to pose the greater threat on the break but were undone by yet another ridiculous mistake on the hour. Jones’ clearance was charged down by Yakubu, who was then pushed over by the Liverpool keeper as he sought to capitalise on the Australian’s failure to hold the ball as it dropped from the sky. Penalty but no red card, the referee adjudged, and as Ewood raged Yakubu rectified his previous penalty by sending Jones the wrong way from the spot.

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