Blackburn 2-3 Liverpool: Carroll heads dramatic stoppage-time winner to earn victory for 10-man Reds
Ewood Park saw plenty of drama with a sending off, two penalties and a glut of goals as Dalglish's men ultimately came out on top thanks to their £35 million No.9
By Edward Tibbles
The game threw up numerous talking points with two penalties, five goals and even a sending-off - one which gives Kenny Dalglish a goalkeeper selection headache ahead of the Reds' FA Cup tie against Everton.
With that game in mind, the visitors made six changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday. Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Stewart Downing dropped out of the squad entirely with Luis Suarez, Dirk Kuyt, Jose Enrique all taking places on the bench. This meant starting berths for Carroll, Maxi Rodriguez, Sebastian Coates, Craig Bellamy, Jay Spearing and the returning Glen Johnson.
Meanwhile, Blackburn made just two changes from their loss to West Brom as Morten Gamst-Pedersen and Jason Lowe were named as substitutes with Mauro Formica and Marcus Olsson coming in.
Despite their numerous changes, it did not take long for the Reds to put their noses in front. An out-of-character pin-point ball by Martin Skrtel, from his own box, found Bellamy deep on the right flank and the Welshman’s pace allowed him to get goal-side of the hosts' defence. He proceeded to drill a ball across the face of goal, just far enough away from the grasp of Robinson, allowing Rodriguez to oblige with a simple tap-in.
The Argentine then completed a quick-fire double with just 16 minutes on the clock. Shelvey robbed the ball on the half-way line and continued to stride towards goal before shooting from just inside the box. His shot was well stopped by Robinson, who parried after diving low to his right, but only as far as the feet of Carroll whose follow-up shot was blocked by Scott Dann and landed for Rodriguez to rifle in, this time on his left.
With Liverpool seemingly in control, Doni gave Dalglish and Liverpool an unnecessary goalkeeping problem as Hoilett found himself one-on-one with the Brazilian following a sloppy Jon Flanagan pass, only to be brought down after giving himself an open goal.
Brad Jones replaced the shaky Flanagan, who was also on the brink of a red card after an early yellow, to face a Yakubu effort from 12 yards. Despite it looking like Rovers had been handed a lifeline, the Nigerian hit a tame effort to Jones’ right which the Australian easily stopped.
However, Yakubu soon made up for his poor penalty attempt as a floated free-kick from David Dunn exploited a lapse in the Liverpool defence to find the striker who was unmarked and free to steer the ball into the bottom corner with his head.
Taking the 2-1 lead into the break, Dalglish would have prayed that the respite and some words of wisdom would help his 10 men hold onto the lead, but such an erratic game showed no signs of slowing.
Carroll nearly made a blistering start to the second half after the first corner of the game was swung in to the back post. The former Newcastle United man lost Grant Hanley but he was unable to get everything behind his diving header, seeing the ball go wide of the goal.
Things then went from bad to worse for the Merseyside outfit as Yakubu charged down Jones’ clearance sending the ball into the air. As it fell, the substitute keeper was seen to hold the striker back leading the referee to award the second penalty of the game but, to the relief of Dalglish, just a yellow card.
Although the Reds perhaps got some luck with the decision, Yakubu showed no leniency this time as he stepped up for his second attempt from the spot. The former Everton man slipped the ball coolly down the middle to send Jones the wrong way and the home fans wild.
Yakubu’s leveller seemed to galvanize the 10-man visitors but they failed to capitalise on their dominance, rarely managing to overcome a capable back line to pose Robinson a problem.
Their inability to create clear-cut chances was then nearly punished as N’Zonzi drilled a diagonal ball across the box to try and find the on-rushing Hoilett but, despite the winger's golden touch of late, he could not manage to get a toe on the ball to turn it past Jones.
It seemed to rattle Dalglish’s men as a long ball onto the edge of their box was misjudged by Carroll. The ball cannoned off of the striker's head, looping over the goalkeeper, but Jones did well to track back and push the ball over the bar to spare his team-mate'ss blushes.
Then, when the suspense appeared to be over, a long-ball into Agger was the catalyst for last-minute drama at Ewood Park. At full stretch the Dane successfully headed the ball square into Carroll, who easily lost his man to nod home past Robinson and secure maximum points.
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