Liverpool 1: Bellamy 37'
Bolton thoroughly dominate Liverpool at the Reebok and coast to a 3-1 victory that boosts them out of the relegation zone. The host's performance was certainly deserving of victory, and Liverpool's was equally deserving of a loss. They were absolutely abysmal, and outside of a few minutes after Craig Bellamy's goal, they looked as though they couldn't be bothered to do anything differently. It was completely indefensible and, even with the shambles that was the early part of last season, easily one of Liverpool's worst performances in recent memory.
One of the more difficult things to stomach is that, barring the presence of Charlie Adam, it looked like one of the strongest lineups available to Kenny Dalglish, with a fit Daniel Agger alongside Martin Skrtel, Craig Bellamy and Maxi both getting starts, and an on-form Steven Gerrard in midfield. Adam's presence has been a worrying trend, but with Jay Spearing still out through injury, it was either him or Shelvey, and Dalglish has shown far too much loyalty to Adam to make his selection surprising.
And it all went to shit relatively quickly, with Mark Davies gliding through Liverpool's midfield and slotting home the opener on four minutes, taking advantage of an out-of-position Martin Skrtel and tucking a left-footed shot past Pepe Reina at the far post. Typically it's hard to say that a lead is earned after such a short period of time, but the hosts had pressed relentlessly since the opening whistle and were rewarded with a goal that was, in a departure from the way Liverpool has defended for most of the season, shockingly easy.
It would continue with Bolton in the ascendancy for much of the first half, highlighted by Nigel Reo-Coker's well-worked effort in the 29th minute to give them a 2-0 lead. Chris Eagles played a nice little dink to the streaking midfielder, who controlled it with his chest before putting it past Reina. Once again, it was a surprisingly simple build-up, with Liverpool's midfield providing no defense support and leaving far too much space for Bolton to exploit. Reo-Coker was left alone and Eagles wasn't closed down, and it's exactly what Liverpool deserved.
There was at least something of a response for the visitors, who were spurred on by the tireless running of Craig Bellamy. With little to speak of emerging from an absent midfield, it was down to Andy Carroll and Bellamy to create for themselves, which they did well in shaping Liverpool's only goal of the match. The speedy Welshman latched on to Carroll's flick and had only Adam Bogdan to beat, and his finish rolled over the line after Bogdan was able to clip it.
From there Liverpool were actually into it, pressing more and looking somewhat lively, and there was still hope that they could turn it around at the start of the second half. That quickly faded, though, with Greitar Steinsson volleying home from David Wheater's header back across goal only five minutes after the restart. Liverpool were done, and other than Bellamy, completely rolled over. Bolton toyed with their guests the rest of the way, tapping it around for fun and relishing in only their second home win of the season.
Bolton supporters will rightfully be proud of their side today---they were confident and played with an urgency that I'd guess they've missed at times during a difficult first half of the season. David Ngog was especially impressive, working his socks off as the lone striker and proving a handful for a Liverpool back line that was out of sorts all night long. His play was in many ways exactly what Liverpool have been missing, so to see him do so well was a bit painful in light of Liverpool's struggles.
Maybe the only downside of the night for Bolton, at least from a competitive standpoint, was that their victory didn't come over an opposition who looked like giving them a game. In years past beating Liverpool was a fairly significant accomplishment---there was the history, yes, but even with the lack of titles recently it was basically assured that Liverpool were going to work their asses off trying to get a result. Didn't always end up that way, but on the whole you could assume that Liverpool had some fight in them.
There was none of that today, with all parties involved, Craig Bellamy aside, colluding to churn out one of the most ineffective and shameful Liverpool performances I've seen. There will rightfully be serious questions asked of Kenny Dalglish, who had a week to prepare his squad but once again made a hash of both selection and tactics. And there will rightfully be serious questions asked of the players, who showed little justification for their inclusion and lacked any urgency in the final forty minutes of a match they were losing by two goals.
So it's probably going to be a messy few days, judging by the number of comments in the matchday thread and Dalglish's post-match comments. All we'd ask is that you at least remain somewhat civil while your hair's on fire, avoid caps lock, any sort of poultry-based ranting, and try to remember that we're probably all on the same side here.
Unless you want more Charlie Adam.