Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool - as it happened

Bolton were brilliant, Liverpool appalling, as the hosts hauled themselves out of the bottom three

With Fernando Torres suffering yet another nightmare in a Chelsea shirt today, all eyes will be on the man who replaced him this evening, in anticipation of a similar fee-defying performance. But everyone's always giving Andy Carroll pelters, the poor bugger. And poor as he's been, his performances haven't plumbed the depths of Stewart Downing, who at £20m is yet to either score or even create a goal in the Premier League this season.

"Stewart is a better player than I thought he was going to be." That tea-spraying, jaw-dropping, jesus-christ-almighty-screaming quote came from Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish yesterday. Knowing then what he knows now, he wouldn't have upped his offer, would he? The mind boggles, though the suspicion is Dalglish doesn't really mean this, and is going out on a limb to repair the shattered confidence of a player who has failed to deliver the goods. With his manager prepared to make himself sound a wee bit daft for him, Downing is in Dalglish's debt, and owes him a performance or three. (See also Carroll, Andy, but we've decided to give the big man a break for once, no?)

Liverpool have been a strange side to watch this season, nevertheless. They were abysmal against Stoke City last weekend, but despite drawing an awful lot of home games, have been the better team in the majority of their matches, playing some pretty football along the way. This, of course, all comes with a fairly massive caveat: their forward play, from the much maligned Carroll to the revered Luis Suarez, has been uniformly dismal.

Bolton Wanderers, meanwhile, are slightly easier to read. They've been pretty awful all season, without much deviation from type. Their defensive lynchpin Gary Cahill is gone, their new striker David Ngog has failed to bother the net too often - having been signed from Liverpool, naturally - and their home record is a joke. Eight defeats from 10 this season, with 24 goals conceded, is abysmal, even by the standards of the bottom three. It also doesn't help that they've lost the last 10 league games in a row against Liverpool.

So, Liverpool don't score, but Bolton always lose against Liverpool. Something's got to give. Unless Wanderers start rattling in a few own goals, of course, but let's not drift off into dreamland. Something's got to give.

Kick off: 5.30pm.

Bolton Wanderers name the same side which lost 3-0 at Old Trafford last weekend: Bogdan, Steinsson, Knight, Wheater, Ricketts, Eagles, Reo-Coker, Muamba, Petrov, Mark Davies, Ngog.
Subs: Lynch, Sanli, Kevin Davies, Pratley, Boyata, O'Halloran, Riley.

Bang! There goes that introduction! Liverpool name Carroll, but Downing is only fit for the purpose of warming the bench. Saucy Kenny and his quotes! Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Maxi, Henderson, Adam, Bellamy, Gerrard, Carroll.
Subs: Doni, Coates, Kuyt, Downing, Carragher, Shelvey, Kelly.

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

All eyes on Andy Carroll after all, then. It would have been much simpler if I'd just written that.

The teams are out! Bolton kitted out in their white shirts with blue sash, Liverpool dressed in red. David Ngog gives his old Anfield team-mates a wink and the thumbs up as they take the field. All pals, that's nice. And let's see how long that lasts should Ngog rattle a couple in this evening. Remember, for all Bolton's travails this season, they've still managed to score more goals than Liverpool in this campaign. One more goal - 25 to 24 - but more is more, whichever way you spin it.

And we're off! Both sets of fans in fine voice. Bolton get the ball rolling. It's a yellow ball with a blue-and-black mosaic on it. Good old progress!

1 min: It's pretty windy at the Reebok. Johnson attempts to break down the right. He fails. Then Gerrard has a go. He fails too. Finally Henderson has a bash, and he does pretty well, breaking a couple of tackles and finally getting a cross in. It's too strong, though, and well over Carroll's head. Knight chests down calmly to guide the ball back to Bogdan.

3 min: GOAL!!! Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Liverpool. Or, put it another way, Bolton Wanderers 26-24 Liverpool. A neat flick by Ngog sends Mark Davies into space, 30 yards from the Liverpool goal. He powers into the area, with none of the Liverpool defenders bothering to close him down. When he reaches the area, he nudges the ball to the left, then hits a low, hard shot into the bottom-right corner. Reina had no chance. A lovely finish, but laughable defending by Liverpool all the same.

5 min: Churlish to moan, with a goal in the opening exchanges, but there's not a lot of controlling going on here. Someone trapping the ball would be nice.

6 min: CHARLIE ADAM'S WEEKLY LATE CHALLENGE FROM BEHIND. It's on Eagles, a pointless hack through the back of his standing leg. It's more clumsy than malicious, and the referee does nothing more than awarding a free kick. Which is wasted. Charlie Adam, though.

8 min: This should be 2-0 to Bolton. Eagles dances down the right, and skins Jose Enrique. He reaches the byline, holds off the left back, and - having drawn Reina and his entire defence to the near post - curls a slow ball past them and right across the face of goal. The ball only required a toe-poke into an empty net; Bolton will rue not getting men into the box there.

10 min: Reina launches a huge kick down the inside-left channel. Bolton's defence is all over the place, and Maxi is released clear down that wing. He reaches the ball as it reaches the Bolton box, but with the ball begging to be hammered goalwards, he somehow overruns it, panics, and tries to head it. The ball hits his hand instead. If Carroll had tied himself into knots like that, everyone would be bellylaughing. That was as clumsy as it gets. Liverpool have been a complete rabble so far.

13 min: Henderson twists and jostles on the right of the Bolton box. He lifts a cross in towards Carroll, but Steinsson gets in the way to deflect the ball out for a corner. Nothing much comes of it, barring a Gerrard shot from the edge of the area that's blocked by Wheater. "Come now Scott, what's wrong with Charlie Adam?" tut-tuts Ryan Dunne. "He's a talented player, although he used to not get in the Glorious Glasgow Rangers team (surely a rebuttal to all those who say scottish fitba is pish?). Plus, he has the whole intimidating 'looking 50 at 20' look that one only gets from the fine Scottish climate and diet (have been moisturising furiously since I was a teenager to try and stave off this look myself)."

16 min: The wind is getting in the way of this game a wee bit. Both teams seem happy to launch it long, and see how things go from there. "The great Liverpool sides, particularly in Europe, were dull (5-0 against Forest an exception)," argues Ben Dunn. "They were effective in the Italian kill-a-game, back-pass after back-pass, and wait for a moment of true genius skill from one of their stars. So Kenny, who I believe once fielded a side of full-backs plus Rush and big Jan, has merely gone back to his roots, although relying on Downing and Carroll rather than himself and Rush to provide that genius, which may be the problem. And I think I am half-cut."

18 min: A strong run by Petrov down the left. He whips a delicious low ball into the six-yard box. Reina collects, with no Bolton striker hassling him. That was a great run, and a lovely ball, and for what? Liverpool stream down the other end. Henderson, who has been Liverpool's best player so far, picks the ball up 25 yards from goal and sends a decent-enough low shot goalwards, albeit one that should never beat a keeper in the top division. And it doesn't, Bogdan getting behind it all the way.

21 min: It's very tatty and shapeless, this. Speaking of which... "Well, that's one crossed off on Charlie Adam bingo," dabs Phil Sawyer with his big fat pen. "Next on the list is head down run into the box without passing to or even noticing his team mates before shanking it wide."

23 min: Gerrard, level with the right-hand side of the area but 35 yards out, fires a flat ball to the head of Carroll, just inside the area. The big man looks for the top-right corner, but only finds the hands of Bogdan. Not a brilliant effort, but not the terrible one he's getting grief for on ESPN. As it was, he was a yard offside anyway.

26 min: Bolton haven't suddenly turned into Brazil '70, but they're playing with vigour and confidence. Liverpool are playing with none, the demons troubling Carroll and Downing seemingly spreading themselves around.

28 min: Adam sends a poor free kick into the Bolton box. But Carroll makes something out of it, flicking the ball onto the hand of Knight. Maxi nearly picks up the scraps, but Wheater hacks clear. Liverpool want a penalty. You've seen them given, but it would have been soft.

30 min: GOAL!!! Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Liverpool. See the third minute, kind of. Eagles runs into loads of space, making good towards the Liverpool area without so much as a defensive challenge to deal with. Cutting in from the inside-right, he flicks a pass forward to Reo-Coker, who lifts the ball into the left-hand side of the net past Reina. Liverpool just stood and watched that. They have been abysmal so far today. Bolton, however, have been superb. Still, that penalty non-decision will rankle the Reds.

32 min: Henderson sprays a peach of a diagonal pass out left for Carroll, who reaches the byline and pulls back a lovely cross to Maxi on the edge of the area. Maxi's shot is blocked by Wheater, who is proving himself a more-than-adequate replacement for Gary Cahill so far. "Why is there so much rubbish on the pitch?" begins James Lane, setting himself up for the inevitable: "And while we're at it, what's with all the litter? Honk!"

35 min: Carroll's having a decent game for Liverpool, too, actually. Now he hoicks a perfect long pass right in front of Bellamy, the ball dropping on a sixpence, an invitation to attack down the inside-right channel. But Bellamy can't get any power in his shot.

37 min: GOAL! Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Liverpool. Bellamy isn't the sort of player to let his head drop, is he? He chases after a super flick-on by Carroll. Bombing clear down the middle, he draws Bogdan, and dinks the ball over the keeper and into the net, just ahead of Knight, who's desperately tracking back to clear. Since going 2-0 down, Liverpool have sprung into action, and that's their reward.

39 min: Now Bellamy is having an argument with Reo-Coker. He's a force of nature, that's for sure. No idea what it's all about, but it all ends in smiles.

40 min: The Liverpool goal has shocked Bolton a wee bit. Now it's their turn to prod the ball about with uncertainty, while Liverpool are trying the pass-and-move game that makes them good to watch (when it's going well).

42 min: Bellamy has taken over the mantle as Liverpool's player of the half, in the heady battle with Henderson and Carroll. He sashays down the inside-left channel and into the area, sending a low shot towards the bottom left corner, in an attempt to recreate Steve Heighway's goal from the 1971 FA Cup final. But Bogdan is no Bob Wilson, and he covers his near post to claim the ball.

44 min: Now Bellamy is arguing with a linesperson after being caught a good five yards offside. He's an incredibly entertaining man. "For your information M. Davies (the scorer) is known locally, local being Bolton, as Mavies," writes Eric Hyland. "Such information may be useful in your career as a sports-reporter." My what as a what? "Have Mavies and Carroll been offered a separate changing room? Just a thought."

45 min +2: Two added minutes, the second of which sees Gerrard take a whack from a tight angle on the left. Bogdan parries out for a corner, then claims the set piece. Up the other end, the eternally clumsy Adam bundles Ngog to the ground, just in front of the D. The last action of this half will be a free kick in a very dangerous position.

45 min +3: Petrov curls a powerful free kick towards the top left. Reina is its equal. Great football all round.

HALF TIME: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Liverpool. As the players walk off, Bellamy and Reo-Coker start arguing again. No smiles this time, at least not from Reo-Coker, who reacts with anger and needs to be ushered down the tunnel by his team-mate Knight.

Well, that was a half of two halves. Or, more accurately, a half of two thirds and a third. Liverpool were a complete nonsense for the first 30 minutes, an abject disgrace in defence, waving an increasingly confident Bolton through for two goals. Bolton's second slapped Liverpool in the face like a bucket of cold water, though, and they got their act together after that. This is set up for a very interesting second period.

HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT: For those of you who have been following The Ditch in recent MBMs, the final episode. I should have probably got this up about a month ago, in fairness, but you should know how we roll round here by now.

From the kind folk at Lincoln Studios.

And we're off again! No changes. Bellamy manages to kick off while talking ten to the dozen. He's clearly in the mood.

46 min: Carroll flicks a long Jose Enrique ball on towards for Bellamy. He nearly releases his man down the inside-left channel, but Knight gets there first.

47 min: Carroll's never going to win any points for style, but he's proving a real handful this evening. He holds off Knight's challenge to turn the ball into space for Adam, who bursts into acres down the inside-left channel. He's got Maxi just to his left, waiting for the pass that'll release him into the box, but Adam mulls over taking a shot himself, and eventually shoots straight at a defender who's closed him down. What poor decision making.

50 min: GOAL!!! Bolton Wanderers 3-1 Liverpool. A corner for Bolton down the left. It's swung by Petrov to the far post, Wheater heading back into the centre, Steinsson sweeping a superlative volley into the bottom-left corner. It's a superb finish. Liverpool are in all sorts of bother now.

52 min: Liverpool had a real chance to make up ground on fourth-placed Chelsea today, and they're blowing it in the grand fashion. Bellamy continues to put himself about, trying to break clear down the left, but Davies and his pal Reo-Coker edge him away from danger and finally take the ball away from him. "The Ditch is good half-time entertainment, but half time at Liverpool v Stoke last week was better," writes Iain Christie. "A guy was flown in from Finland to take three penalties in front of the Kop. Score one against a youth team keeper who had been told to dive out of the way and he would win an all expenses paid trip to Euro 2012. He fluffed the lot and trudged off without even his bus fare home. I've never felt so British as when I was laughing my backside off at another human being's abject misery."

55 min: Bolton are sitting back a wee bit here. Bellamy and Maxi nearly combine to create something down the left. Then Adam skitters down the wing, firing a low and hard shot-cum-cross into the six-yard box. Bogdan claims easily enough. "And that is number two on Phil Sawyer's Charlie Adam Bingo List (@ 21 minutes) crossed off," writes Dr. Manoj Joseph of our 47 min entry.

58 min: A stat from ESPN: this is the first time Bolton have scored three goals against Liverpool in the league since 1950. Oh dear. To raise the mood of Liverpool supporters, here's David Horn: "Just a quick message of reassurance: don't panic, we'll bring on Kuyt in a minute."

60 min: This is better from Liverpool. Carroll wins another ball, sending Maxi and Gerrard down the inside-left channel. Some nice first-time flicks send the latter towards the byline, but the resulting cross is easily cleared. Adam tries again; corner. And the corner's claimed by Bogdan. "There's a bus from Anfield to Finland?" asks Phil Sawyer (52 mins). "Do its wheels fold in and sprout fins in the manner of a James Bond car?"

61 min: A couple of corners for Bolton down the left. Petrov's first is cleared by Skrtel, but Davies beats Maxi to the ball, romps down the left, and wins a second. From that, Bellamy races after a long clearance, and Liverpool are on the attack. Gerrard and Henderson combine down the right, but the resulting cross by Liverpool's captain doesn't find a red shirt, and Henderson can't latch onto the loose ball on the edge of the area. Liverpool are incoherent in attack again, with few options in the box.

63 min: Jose Enrique is booked for a late lunge on Eagles down the right. Nothing malicious, but late, and fair enough.

64 min: A double change by Dalglish: Maxi and Adam, who has been dismal today, are replaced by Kuyt and Downing.

67 min: A corner for Liverpool down the left, after some determined work by Bellamy and Gerrard. Carroll meets the ball at the near post, and sends it miles wide left. The Bolton fans get their abaci out, consider Carroll's goals-to-game return, and break out in song.

69 min: In the middle of a penalty-area brouhaha, Carroll sticks out a leg in the hope of sending the ball goalwards. Instead, he lifts it over the bar. A nice idea. Bolton have been very quiet up front since their third goal.

71 min: Agger, presumably sick to the back teeth of the nonsense unfolding in front of him, steps forward down the inside-left channel and unleashes a majestic rising shot towards the top right. It's rising just that little bit too quickly, though, and clips the top of the bar. A fantastic effort, and very unlucky. "I wonder if Steven Gerrard's playing?" asks Sasu Laaksonen, who knows full well, etc. "If he is, he's using Paul Ince's legs from his time with Wolves."

73 min: Downing breaks down the inside-left channel and reaches the byline. He pulls a luscious ball back towards Carroll, 12 yards out. Carroll takes a fresh-air swipe. Dear God. The loose ball stops on the edge of the D. Gerrard and Reo-Coker hare towards it, Reo-Coker barging the Liverpool captain out of the way in the comic style. It's a free kick to Liverpool - or should be, the referee risibly awarding it to Bolton instead. On the touchline, Dalglish holds his head in his hands in disbelief. He's either aghast at that ludicrous decision or, more likely, wondering what the effing hell he was up to when he spent £35m on Andy Carroll. God knows, he's an easy target these days, but players have some sort of duty to execute basics such as kicking, don't they?

76 min: Bolton are beginning to come at Liverpool again. Reo-Coker is nearly released into the area with a clever dink down the inside-right by Eagles. Liverpool are living dangerously. "Apparently you can also say abacuses," writes Fraser Thomas. So now we know.

78 min: Of course, Liverpool still have time to snatch a point, albeit not much. Gerrard tears forward and feeds Bellamy, who shoots from 25 yards. A bobbling effort is snaffled by Bogdan.

79 min: Another surge by Gerrard, but he's crowded out of it on the edge of the area before he can unleash a shot.

81 min: Petrov ducks between Kuyt and Johnson down the left, deep inside his own half. He tears upfield, then sends the ball into the centre, the ball ending up at the feet of Eagles, 30-odd yards out. Eagles has a chance to feed Ngog, but elects to curl one into the top-right corner instead. It's a woeful effort. Ngog has the right to complain and bitch, but doesn't.

84 min: Eagles skidaddles down the right, cuts inside, and hits a half-arsed shot that's deflected off Skrtel's heel and nearly into the bottom-left corner with Reina's feet planted. Nothing comes from the corner.

86 min: Liverpool can't get anything going. This is over. Which, in truth, it's been since Bolton scored their third. The home side are holding their shape manfully. "Perhaps Agger should play in midfield," suggests Anthony Warmuth. "He seems more comfortable on the ball than anyone else in red."

88 min: Ngog twists and turns on the edge of the Liverpool area, right on the left-hand corner. Agger is over to irritate. Free kick. It's his last act, as he's applauded off, Kevin Davies coming on in his place. "If theres a bus from Anfield to Finland, maybe they should put Andy Carroll on it," suggests Simon from Canada.

89 min: The free kick won by Ngog is shifted to Eagles, who cuts inside and blasts a wild effort miles high and wide right. That shouldn't excuse more piss-poor Liverpool defending: for the third time today, they invite a Bolton player into acres of space and ask him to shoot. Nobody closing him down whatsoever. Liverpool, 15 minutes before half time apart, have been godawful from back to front. An appalling show.

90 min: There will be two added minutes of this.

90 min +1: Tuncay replaces the excellent Eagles.

FULL TIME: Bolton Wanderers 3-1 Liverpool. Kuyt is booked for a late hoof on Mark Davies. And then the whistle goes on a deserved victory for the home side, who have been uniformly excellent today. They're out of the bottom three. Liverpool might only be six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and that spot in the Champions League, but in truth they are a world away. A lot of rubbish on the Reebok pitch tonight, most of it in red shirts of course, but the last word on the litter goes to Nick Trim: "There are definitely more crisp packets and chip paper on northern pitches than down south. I suppose picnic hampers at Craven Cottage as the Emirates don't carry as well in the wind."

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