Premier League - Cole gives Liverpool late win
Sat, 01 Jan 16:59:00 2011
Joe Cole's stoppage-time winning goal eased some of the pressure on beleaguered boss Roy Hodgson as Liverpool came from behind to snatch a dramatic 2-1 Premier League victory over Bolton Wanderers at Anfield.
Kevin Davies stunned the hosts with a clinical header two minutes before half-time, before Lucas's horror miss seconds later saw the Reds booed off yet again by the home fans at the break.
But Liverpool responded with a 49th-minute equaliser courtesy of an emphatic strike from Fernando Torres, and substitute Cole grabbed all three points for the hosts with a close-range finish to give Hodgson's side a vital three points at the death.
Maxi Rodriguez replaced Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard in midfield and Daniel Agger made a welcome return at the expense of Sotirios Kyrgiakos, while Fabio Aurelio made his first league start of the season. Bolton boss Owen Coyle, meanwhile, made two changes with Mark Davies and Marcos Alonso coming in at the expense of Paul Robinson and Stuart Holden.
The tension and anxiety was palpable around a less-than-full Anfield as the Reds misplaced passes and squandered possession with alarming regularity in a scrappy opening which was compounded when Raul Meireles sustained an injury that saw Gerrard prematurely introduced.
The Liverpool captain's first contribution was scything down Marcos Alonso out on the hosts' right flank; the unmarked Zat Knight was profligate as he headed wide from the resulting set piece. It was a reprieve for the Reds, but they did not take heed.
Liverpool almost broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark after Dirk Kuyt surged down the right and dinked back a precise delivery from the byline which Rodriguez headed towards the far corner of the net, only for the crossbar to come to Bolton's rescue with Jussi Jaaskelainen comprehensively beaten.
The visitors made Hodgson's side pay for that miss two minutes before the break as Aurelio hauled down Matt Taylor, whose resulting set-piece delivery picked out Davies - he was virtually free and powered a header beyond the helpless Pepe Reina.
Liverpool then appeared to lose their composure entirely as Lucas inexplicably sliced a simple shot wide from just two yards out with Jaaskelainen stranded seconds after the opening goal. It was a quite staggering miss from the Brazilian.
The onus was on the hosts to respond after the restart, but it was Bolton who started the brighter as Kevin Davies squandered a decent opportunity to double his tally after the forward ghosted into the Liverpool box and headed agonisingly wide of the far post.
But Liverpool mustered inspiration in the 49th minute as Gerrard dinked over a delightful through ball which Torres met crisply with a sidefoot volley to level matters.
Gerrard was employed in a more advanced role in the second half and, with the crowd buoyed by the goal, the skipper combined superbly with Torres on the hour mark; the Spaniard cut inside from the left and drove a low shot narrowly wide of the far post.
The hosts piled forward in their droves in search of a winner, and Torres came close in the 72nd minute as he unfurled a crisp volley from Gerrard's whipped delivery, but the ball fizzed wide of the near post.
The Trotters enjoyed fleeting forays into the Liverpool half, and Mark Davies might have restored the Trotters' lead had he showed greater conviction with just Reina to beat in the 79th minute.
Bolton defended obdurately in the closing stages and Hodgson sought to inject the necessary cutting edge in the final third with Kyrgiakos employed as an auxiliary forward, but it was Cole who provided the required impact.
Gerrard whipped a deep delivery to the back post, where Rodriguez beat Johan Elmander with a determined challenge - and Cole bundled the ball home with Jaaskelainen caught out of position to clinch all three points for his side.
The crucial victory sees Liverpool move up into ninth spot above Blackburn and Blackpool, with the under-fire Hodgson granted some valuable respite to end a difficult week.Dan Quarrell / Eurosport