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Premier League

  • 5 January 2011
  • • 20:00
  • • Ewood Park, Blackburn, Lancashire
  • Referee: A. Marriner
  • • Attendance: 24522

Blackburn Rovers 3-1 Liverpool: Benjani brace piles pressure on Hodgson after nightmare return to Ewood Park

Blackburn Rovers 3-1 Liverpool: Benjani brace piles pressure on Hodgson after nightmare return to Ewood Park

Late Gerrard goal was not enough to inspire Liverpool

Roy Hodgson's position as manager hung by a thread after Liverpool were dished out a thumping by his former club Blackburn Rovers.

Hodgson - who endured a nightmare spell at Ewood Park from 1997-1998 - came under ever more pressure after a Martin Olsson opener and Benjani brace sent the Reds packing. Not even an 81st minute consolation from an out-of-sorts Steven Gerrard could suffice, as the visiting fans called for their manager's removal on the final whistle.

Interim Rovers manager Steve Kean was finally able to call on captain Christopher Samba after a spell on the sidelines. The giant centre-back was one of three changes from the team that was hammered 3-0 by Sunderland on New Year's Day, with Michel Salgado and Benjani also included.

For Liverpool, their under-fire boss made four changes to the side that claimed an injury-time 2-1 victory against Bolton Wanderers. Paul Konchesky, Joe Cole, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and skipper Steven Gerrard were all in from the start, with Fernando Torres supported by David Ngog.

Liverpool started the game with an assuredness that belied there ninth place in the Premier League table. In the third minute Torres was correctly flagged offside when played through on goal by Glen Johnson, before the striker fizzed a header past the far post moments later.

Blackburn slowly began to take the sting out of the vociferous travelling support and got their feet on the ball. David Dunn lashed over their first attempt on target on 14 minutes, before on-loan Manchester United centre forward Mame Biram Diouf wasted the best chance of the game so far two minutes later.

Michel Salgado found Olsson after the Spaniard showed some nifty footwork on the half-way line. The Swede's cross averted Martin Skrtel, but Diouf failed to make any real contact with the ball and chested it into the grateful hands of goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

The game then sprung to life again on 26 minutes. Joe Cole first went close when his low deflected cross from close range dragged agonisingly wide of Mark Bunn's post.

Rovers immediately counter-attacked and Mame Diouf again wasted a glorious opportunity. The Senegal international sprung strike partner Benjani and his deflected shot looped into his path, but he could only blast widely over Reina's cross-bar.

Mame Diouf redeemed himself on 31 minutes when his delicately weighted through ball allowed Olsson to open the scoring. The left-winger got behind Kyrgiakos' shoulder and calmly slotted through Reina's legs to crank up the pressure on Hodgson.

With the tail now between their legs, things nearly got instantly worse for the visitors. A rampaging run from Samba into the opposition half saw Junior Hoilett's cross just plucked from the feet of Benjani by the alert Reina.

Blackburn weren't to be disappointed for long and Benjani made it 2-0 on 38 minutes with a tremendous thumped finish high into Reina's net. The ex-Manchester City striker collected a chipped ball from Morten Gamst Pedersen in the penalty box and held off a weak challenge from Kyrgiakos to pivot and send Ewood Park into ecstasy.

With his team seemingly slumped to defeat, Hodgson cast a lone figure on the touchline. The 63-year-old looked resigned to his fate, as he forlornly placed his hands in his coat pockets.

A late chance for Skrtel after he blazed over a poor Gael Givet clearance from a corner could not come close to healing the wounds. The Liverpool players soon headed down the touchline at half-time as booing emanated from an away block desperate for owner John Henry to call time on Hodgson's reign.

On their way | Olsson fired Blackburn into a first-half lead

Hodgson was in dire need of a reply from his players if he was to stand a chance to cling to his job. An unusually quiet Gerrard rose from his slumber on 50 minutes to fire into the side netting from close range as he picked up on an Olsson challenge on Glen Johnson.

Things were soon to take another turn for the worse for Hodgson as Benjani grabbed his second goal. The ex-Zimbabwe international poked home from three yards after Hoilett - on a rare excursion to the left-wing - beat Johnson and Skrtel too easily and laid a low centre on a plate.

The Liverpool were now in open revolt and several sarcastic chants of 'Hodgson for England' bellowed out. A rare glimmer of light emerged on 66 minutes when Cole lofted an improvised high ball over the Rovers defence into Torres' path, but the Spaniard wasted yet another chance.

With Hodgson still the loneliest man in the ground, Hoilett continued to spark into life. The Canadian showed his inexperience on 71 minutes, however, when he shot wide from distance after an excellent run when he should have played in Olsson.

Among the dross around him, Gerrard latched onto to a deflected Torres shot to add some gloss to the scoreline. The England midfielder's belted finish past Bunn showed much of the frustration built up during a devastating depressing campaign so far.

Maybe this aggression had gone beyond the brim as Gerrard spurned a chance of further salvation for Hodgson in the 85th minute. The 30-year-old uncharacteristically fired a wild penalty high and wide of Bunn's net after Torres had been scythed down in the area by Salgado.

The effort must have felt like a dagger through Hodgson's heart. Upon the end of the game, more cat calls emerged as the visiting fans hoped referee Andre Mariner had called time not only on the game but on his time in charge of the Anfield outfit.

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