Preamble: While Liverpool's morale won't, perhaps, be high after their win against Blackburn Rovers last weekend, it will at least have been raised slightly from rock bottom. They travel to Bolton Wanderers today with their more optimistic fans hoping that this is the point at which their season starts.
Those believing a victory is in the offing will point to the fact that Wanderers are as close to a whipping boy as Liverpool have: the Reds have beaten Bolton on their last seven meetings, while the home side have only beaten the visitors three times in their last 22 matches. Owen Coyle's side have only won once at home this season as well, which doesn't appear to much aid their cause.
But, before Liverpool get too cocky, there's the fact that Bolton have lost only once this season and it helps that Johan Elmander seems to have remembered how to score again (though not at home, where he's only netted once since joining the club). They may have had a difficult week off the pitch – their striker Ivan Klasnic was arrested for an alleged rape on Monday – but Coyle appears to have the side ticking currently.
There's something else that suggests Bolton may prevail here too, and as stat bombs go, it's of the nuclear variety. Roy Hodgson has won just 11 away games in the Premier League since 1997. At Blackburn, Fulham and Liverpool, over six seasons, he has cemented a reputation with the road on a par with the humble hedgehog. The last time he won away from home in the Premier League was on the very first day of last season, when Fulham beat Portsmouth. Oh dear.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Lee, Holden, Muamba, Taylor, Elmander, Kevin Davies. Subs: Bogdan, Mark Davies, Klasnic, Ricketts, Moreno, Blake, Cohen.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Konchesky, Lucas, Meireles, Maxi, Gerrard, Cole, Torres. Subs: Hansen, Jovanovic, Ngog, Spearing, Poulsen, Shelvey, Kelly.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
So no changes to the Liverpool team that beat Blackburn last week and only one change for Bolton - Matt Taylor in for Martin Petrov.
Here's another ludicrous Liverpool stat: the team have not netted a league goal that was not either scored or assisted by Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres since the opening day of the season.
Here's a made up Liverpool stat that might be true, I don't really know: they might be the baldest, most tattooed team in the Permier League.
Some quotes from the managers before the game: Owen Coyle: "We'll need to work hard as a team, Liverpool have undoubted quality. Johan's [Elmander] now getting the goals his hard work deserves."
Roy Hodgson: "We were pleased with last week, it's important to play well but one swallow doesn't make a summer, we're still in a bad position in the league."
Meanwhile, the PA at The Reebok is blasting out the theme from Ghostbusters.
Oh, forgot to say, Petrov is out with a hamstring injury - in case you wanted to know.
3.52pm: Some insight from Peter Reid, Sky pundit: "Liverpool need Fernando Torres to be on top form." Good lord, where's Jamie Redknapp when you need some searing analysis?
3.55pm: An email from Paul, which will allow me to break the guardian.co.uk record for most uses of the word tattoo in one minute-by-minute post. "What is it with players and tattoos? Just about the only tattoo they don't sport is the club badge on their chest. Do they have all these tattoos to create some sort of exotic Belmarsh ambience in the post-match shower? The worst thing about all these tattoos in society is that it becomes impossible to know who is the violent offender you should keep away from and who is the normal person it's alright to laugh at in public."
Clickety-clack: Here come the teams, down the Reebok's seperate tunnels, and out onto the pitch. We are, quite literally, minutes away from a football match.
We're off: Liverpool kick off and Konchesky launches a long ball up to Torres. He gets it back, with interest, from the Bolton defence and Skrtel is forced to head into touch. Steinsson's long throw causes some concern, and Bolton launch several attacks before it's Kyrgiakos's turn to head out. Bolton on the attack early.
3 min: Konchesky drops a lovely ball into Joe Cole's path in the box but the winger can't capitalise, instead he wins a corner from Steinsson. Torres meets Gerrard's corner, more or less unmarked, and sends a stinging header six inches over the bar.
5 min: Liverpool attack down the right wing, through Carragher and Meireles, but Robinson clears to Davies. The striker runs into the Liverpool half as Bolton regroup. Robinson picks up the ball again near the halfway line and simply aims a long ball at his striker, who can't do much with the route one ball.
7 min: Bolton revert to the long ball again, Knight hoofing one up the pitch at Lee (which is too high) before, a little later, the defender aims another one at Davies. The striker backs in strongly (and legally) but cannot do anything with the ball.
9 min: Fernando Torres runs fluently into the box, beats a man and - with the keeper to beat - he toe pokes wide and almost out for a corner. That was a glorious chance, entirely spurned by the striker. He would have been better just wellying that. That says something about his confidence right there.
10 min: Here's a disturbing email from Chris in Toronto, mostly because he uses the word 'broad' to mean 'a girl', which isn't something anyone has done since 1950s Hollywood: "I had a near-death close escape with a broad who felt the need to expose her tattoos - footy players be warned, age and gravity wreak havoc..."
11 min: Cole dinks the ball out left to Konchesky who puts across the sort of cross that pundits always call "lovely". It was drifting, hanging, floating and all the other cliches but ... wasn't actually at any Liverpool players so perhaps wasn't all that great after all.
14 min: Kyrgiakos, who appears to be making up for the lack of hair elsewhere in the Liverpool team by growing a mane worthy of Samson, sends a couple of passes up the pitch but Liverpool keep working the ball back to him. Bolton finally get narked with that and Lee interecepts, sends Taylor free up the left and Reina has to punch the cross clear.
15 min: That seems to have livened the game up a bit and Liverpool have an attack of their own. Torres nearly latches onto a neat through ball but Jaaskelainen just beats him to it as he comes sliding out of his area and kicks to safety.
17 min: Meireles finds Cole out on the left. The midfielder keeps running, looking for a one-two, but Cole elects to cut inside and cross. He sends the ball in straight but several feet over and several feet wide of the nearest Bolton player, let alone the nearest Liverpool player. Up the other end, Davies wins the sort of crafty, muscular free kick with which he has made his name.
18 min: Taylor hammers in the free kick and it cannons of some poor chap's head in the wall.
19 min: "For the ironically inclined 'Gravity always wins' would make a great tattoo," chortles Ian Copestake of Chris's 10th minute email.
21 min: Lee pumps a long ball forward, which Lucas clears straight back into his path. He charges upfield before Bolton get the chance to knock the ball into Elmander in the box but Skrtel is there to clear. A minute later, Lee is put through by Holden and is about to fly up the wing. Or at least he would have done had Konchesky not chopped him down to earn a yellow card.
23 min: Steinsson finds Davies, who flicks it on to Holden just outside the box. The midfielder takes the ball on the full and flays it goalwards. It's a great strike but Reina can make one of those specatular-looking diving saves to his left, that probably aren't that hard but look great anyway. Nice bit of football all round, really.
24 min: Robinson crosses and Skrtel and Lee battle for the ball in the box. No-one can quite make decisive contact, though, until Kyrgiakos gets a boot to it and hoofs it up the pitch. Liverpool have had much of the possession so far, but Bolton are beginning to make some chances.
25 min: "My feed of this is on a tiny three inch by two inch screen," writes Phil Sawyer. "As I can't make out individual players, I'm having to guess who they are based on playing style - overhit passes, losing control of the ball, etc. On this basis, Liverpool seem to be fielding three Gerrards and four Lucases today. Actually, what is the plural of Lucas? Luci?"
26 min: Lee, who has switched flanks, darts into the box and is brought down by either Skrtel or Carragher (sorry, couldn't see). He appeals for the penalty but it wasn't given - rightly, believes Andy Gray on Sky.
27 min: "Terrifically funny moment from Elmander there - not sure if you heard but his English is very good," writes Phil Wainwright. "'Are you blind or what!?' he yelled at the ref. McEnroe-esque rant award." I think Elmander thought Skrtel had fouled him but the defender had, in fact, merely had the temerity to kick the ball gently against the back of his leg. So Elmander had a brilliant little fit at the referee - who looked at him slightly pitifully.
29 min: Gerrard wangs it into Torres from the right touchline. The striker controls it neatly, then looks up to discover he is offside. Learning his lesson, when Gerrard puts through another ball to him, he simply doesn't bother to chase it, so far offside is he. It comes to something when a striker just lurks about offside and doesn't even bother to chase the ball when it's passed to him.
30 min: The plural of Lucas? Step forward Samuel Zakow: "Since Lucas is an ancient Greek name (Loukas), the standard plural (insofar as there is a standard plural of names) should be Lucai (Loukai) here." So there you go. Anything else?
34 min: Lucas gets knocked down by Holden 10 yards outside the box, the ball breaks to Konchesky who crosses but the referee had already blown up, not electing to play advantage. Gerrard aims the free-kick at the top corner, then blasts the ball unerringly into the car park.
35 min: I'm not going to lie, this is not a very good match.
35 min: A brief snapshot of something that has just happened to Fernando Torres, that sums up his game and, really, his season: he fell over the ball and landed on his bum. Imagine this happening with a trombone going BBAAAAAAbrruuuBAAAA for the full effect.
37 min: Muamba charges onto the ball in the centre of the pitch, then gives itl an almighty thump goalwards to absolutely no avail.
38 min: Elmander steals onto a flick through into the box and shoots at Reina. The keeper saves and the striker was offside. This is what is passing for excitement at the moment.
39 min: "Despite being a Liverpool fan I am utterly bored," writes Ian Copestake, though whether he's referring to this game, the club's season, or life in general is unclear.
40 min: Davies finds Taylor on the left wing, he nips forward then aims a useful-looking cross unusefully into the vacant part of the box. Elmander insists the ball took a deflection off Carragher's arm but the referee begs to differ.
43 min: Maxi Rodriguez drags the ball back to Gerrard who is on the edge of the box. The Liverpool captain sends a skimming shot several metres wide of the post, the ball skidding wide with almost sarcastic disdain. Up the other end, Taylor knocks a free kick over the wall but into Reina's arms.
44 min: "Come on ... enough criticism of Torres, he's a great player struggling for form and fitness, he doesn't need to be berated for every action he does, he has the ability and will be back in form at some point, pretty sure he's not going to end up updating details on a football match for a living anytime soon," writes Ronan Fitzgerald, whose success at life in general entitles him to belittle those who are writing the report he is reading.
45 min: Elmander turns sharply, flicking the ball behind him, then hits the deck after minimal attention from Skrtel. He wins the free kick, though, just a yard or so outside the left hand edge of the box. Taylor shoots low and hard and Reina nearly lets it squirm under him and into the net. But not nearly enough, frankly, for anyone looking for some action here.
Peep, peep: At the other end, Gerrard sends in a long free kick which Kyrgiakos heads goalwards. A good, flying save to his left from Jaaskelainen keeps the scores at 0-0 as the referee blows for half-time.
4.51pm: "Terrible the way the Guardian sticks casual into your email address," writes Derek Hatton. Yeah, but it does sort of sum up my career. I'm just glad they didn't go with loser.
An email from Mark Jones: "If the game's that boring how about the following statistic: Borrussia Dortmund have just won to go top of the Bundesliga. They have an identical record to Chelsea P10 W.8 D1 L1: 25 points. What do we learn from this? Who cares, you can drink beer [with alcohol in it], in full view of the pitch in Germany and they still stand on the terraces."
5.02pm: Being lazy, I can't be bothered to come up for a caption above. So you can ...
They're off again: All sorts of nonsense happens in the Liverpool box, as Reina has to deperately try and get his hands on the ball as various Bolton players, and Paul Robinson, attempt to nudge the ball into the net without success. That was a breathless start to the second half of a game that has been anything but so far.
48 min: Kevin Davies charges onto Muamba's through ball but without much effect. Next Matt Taylor gets a yellow card for clambering all over Gerrard and, as a final dig, appearing to pinch his bum.
50 min: Gerrard picks out Torres with one of those long, bending balls around the back of the defence. The striker then knocks the ball through to Cole who can't get the bettter of the giant Zat Knight. "Derek Hatton continues to defend the rights of contextually scouse workers, then," chortles Devin Till of the entry at 4.51pm.
52 min: Liverpool attempt to break through Gerrard, he links up with Torres who blasts a shot at the Bolton goal - only to see it charged down. The ball falls to Cole who aims a cross at Maxi Rodriguez and misses but quite some distance.
53 min: Skrtel fouls Davies on the halfway line, allowing Bolton to launch a free kick into what we are contractually obliged to call 'the mixer'. Kyrgiakos and Davies tussle to get onto the long ball into the box and it eventually goes out for a goal kick. I thought Owen Coyle was supposed to have stopped all this sort of Route One play from Bolton.
Caption competition for which no prizes are on offer round-up: "Atichoo! Atichoo! We all fall down, Nigel in Vancouver. "If we three stick together lads, the barber and the tattoo-artist don't stand a chance," Will Irvine. "Jamie to Fernando: 'You have to wait until we've sung "a pocket full of posies" before you fall down.'" Richard Sheridan.
56 min: Back to the pitch, then, where Muamba has just put in a particularly firm challenge on Lucas. The Bolton man arrived late and hard but got away with it. Lucas didn't look all that happy.
59 min: Torres attempts to attack down the right wing but can't get the better of Paul Robinson. Taylor humps the ball out, then Maxi Rodriguez sends over a cross to the near post. Cahill traps the ball and then has about an hour with which to clear it, since no Liverpool players have bothered to get into the box to meet it.
60 min: Joe Cole knocks the ball back to Gerrard on the edge of the box and the Liverpool captain shoots. The ball deflects off Robinson and loops into Jaaskelainen's arms. Of more concern to Liverpool, though, is the fact that Cole immediately went down after playing the pass and clutched his hamstring. There was no challenge from a Bolton player but Cole is obviously in trouble and is being replaced by Ngog.
63 min: The game has opened a little, with Liverpool making more and more of the running. Gerrard drives forward, laying the ball off to Meireles as he goes. The Liverpool captain was then taken out by a rogue Bolton challenge, but the ball broke to Torres, who shot firmly but at Jaaskelainen. "Despite evidence to the contrary, Liverpool deny that they're holding Torres back," writes Mark Guthrie of the caption competition.
65 min: Carragher finds Torres on the edge of the box. He does well to hold off Cahill and spreads the play out to Meireles on the right wing. He stands a ball up at the far post but Maxi Rodriguez can't get onto the end of it. It goes behind for a corner, which Kyrgiakos heads whistling over the cross bar.
67 min: Torres looks more comfortable with Ngog up front to support him. The Spaniard gets on the end of another Carragher through ball, then spins and finds Ngog running into the corner. It comes to nothing but is a thousand times more effective than anything the Torres-Cole combo had previously achieved.
68 min: Taylor swings over a free-kick and Kyrgiakos simply barges Davies over in the box. That really should have been a penalty. Perhaps the fact Davies has spent much of the game throwing himself at Krygiakos and winning free-kicks for his efforts has worked against him. Could easily have been given, that.
69 min: Elmander flicks the ball to Taylor, who sends in a neat pass to Holden charging into the box. He can't get his shot away, though.
71 min: Maxi Rodriguez gets free down the left, he back heels to Gerrard who crosses to the far post for Torres. The striker heads the ball back to the D, from where Rodriguez hits a bicycle kick that that only just goes over the bar. Back-heels and bicycle kicks? Where the hell has this been all night?
Caption competition: "Carragher: 'Please don't leave us, we desperately need you. You too Fernando...'" writes Phil Walsh.
73 min: Elmander leaves Meireles trailing in his wake as he latches onto a mis-control from Torres. He then aims what looks like a tame shot at the goal but it drifts only inches wide. A good effort that goes behind for a corner. Knight attacks the ball in but heads over.
74 min: Davies leaps to meet a long ball, then heads the ball down for Elmander. He bursts into the box then hits a right foot shot several miles wide. A poor effort, really. Lee is hauled off and replaced by Rodrigo for Bolton.
76 min: Davies and Skrtel get involved in a tussle on the right wing that earns Bolton a dangerous free kick and the Liverpool man a yellow card. Taylor swings the ball over and Davies gets his hair to the ball, but not his head. A fraction heavier a touch and that would have gone in the back of the net.
78 min: Ngog wins a corner from Zat Knight at the other end. Gerrard puts the ball over but Lucas misses his attempt to head it, and it hits a surprised Cahill in the face. Fortunately it bounces to the keeper. Next, Muamba goes on a surging run, before his shot is charged down.
79 min: Liverpool play a long ball over the top for Ngog to charge onto. The striker is in the clear but Jaaskelainen comes charging off his line and clears the ball upfield.
Caption competition: "Remember, no more than arm's width apart, we'll find a goal somewhere," writes Gareth Pert.
81 min: Cahill gives away a free kick near the centre circle. Gerrard takes a leaf out of the Bolton book and launches it box-wards. The home side clear, though. Meanwhile, Elmander slopes off to be replaced by Klasnic.
83 min: Ngog hoofs the ball into the corner for Torres to chase. Cahill chases it there with him and hooks it out of play. He manages to get Torres's feet caught in his swingers for his troubles but, impressively, just gets on with things.
84 min: It comes to something when Liverpool securing a 0-0 draw away at Bolton counts as a good result for them, doesn't it?
85 min: Ngog plays the ball through to Torres, who casually knocks the ball left to Gerrard, charging into the box. Unfortunately, he finds three Bolton players instead of his team-mate. Oh dear. Still, Liverpool get the best of some poor Bolton control and Maxi Rodriguez nearly sneaks a chance but Jaaskelainen is there to block. Ian Copestake has this for the caption comp: "Liverpool players begin to take You'll Never Walk Alone too literally."
GOAL! Bolton 0-1 Liverpool (Maxi Rodriguez, 86min): Torres back heels through Cahill's legs on the edge of the area, leaving Maxi Rodriguez in the clear on the penalty spot. He dinks the ball past Jaaskelainen and into the goal.
88 min: Boy, did Liverpool need that. And, yet again, Liverpool prove they cannot score a goal unless Torres or Gerrard are involved. They need to address that because Torres has had a poor one today and that ball, good though it was, was very much an anomaly for him this afternoon. Blake comes on for Bolton, not sure who went off. Sorry.
89 min: Poulsen is coming on for Meireles to swing the bald-tattoo balance back towards the hairy and ink-free side of the equation.
90 min: There will be four minutes of extra time as Steinsson tries to gee up his Bolton team-mates with a long throw into the box. It's cleared, allowing Gerrard to hoof the ball back up the pitch and to safety.
90 min+2: Bolton launch a long ball into the box and Davies heads it down for Rodrigo. The Bolton man probably should have beaten Reina to the ball but the Spanish keeper claims and clears.
90 min+3: Steinsson lobs in a long throw and Liverpool clear to touch, only for the right back to launch another throw area-wards. That too is cleared and Cahill hits a shot that lobs up into Reina's arms.
90 min+4: Muamba, standing near enough on the left wing, attempts to bend a shot into the goal. It's got nice shape, but not pace, and Reina catches easily.
Peep peep: That's it, Liverpool scrape out of the relegation zone with a win that they just about deserved but that wasn't edifying stuff.
5.55pm: A thoroughly depressing first half, there, that came to life in the second half. Well, it stuttered a bit rather than came to life - but, in comparison to what came before, it was positively electrifying. It leaves Liverpool in 12th.
Best of the captions that haven't already run: "You can lead a Fernando to the goal but you can't make him score," Taylor Hanton"Jamie Carragher explains the intricacies of British Bulldog to a couple of his foreign collegues, who hadn't had the pleasure," Dominic Ranahan
That's it, I'm off. Thanks for all your emails. A win for Liverpool, but not a convincing one. Another defeat for Bolton against the Reds and Roy Hodgson's first win on the road for well over a year. That's probably about all you can say. Not a classic.
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