Premier League - Reds frustrated by Rovers at Anfield
Kenny Dalglish’s side have now been restricted to draws in five of their past six league matches at Anfield and were guilty of missing a number of chances, most notably in a thrilling conclusion, when drawing with the Premier League’s bottom club and passing up the chance to move to within a point of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Blackburn, without a win in their past 15 visits to Anfield, took an unexpected lead with seconds remaining of the first half as Charlie Adam put the ball into his own net when defending from a corner.
Though Maxi Rodriguez converted with a header after 53 minutes, and captain Steven Gerrard came off the bench to make his first appearance since October 22, Liverpool were unable to deny a point to the unloved Steve Kean, who has been under such intense pressure in the Blackburn hot seat.
It required a sensational save from Mark Bunn deep into injury time and a goal-line clearance from the 17-year-old from Adam Henley, making his first Premier League start, to deny Liverpool though.
Kean's fellow Scot Dalglish has had an easier time of things than his Blackburn counterpart this season, and commands the fierce loyalty of his own supporters, but Liverpool have struggled in attack, scoring with a league-low 8.6 per cent of their shots, and persistent wastefulness continued to dog them in a hugely frustrating first half at Anfield.
Luis Suarez, still present in the team pending an appeal against his eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra, was lively and turned an early shot into the side netting following a cross from Glen Johnson. The Uruguayan also shot wide when combining with strike partner Andy Carroll, who had been restored to the starting XI at the expense of Dirk Kuyt.
The £35 million striker was looking to improve on a record of four goals in 22 league games for Liverpool and should have done so on 28 minutes. Jose Enrique’s cross caused havoc in the Blackburn box but when the ball fell kindly to Carroll just six yards out he saw his effort expertly saved by stand-in Blackburn keeper Bunn.
Carroll did have the ball in the net soon after, only to be rightly denied by an offside flag after converting from Suarez’s cross. However it was the Uruguayan who was offside and had he let Stewart Downing cross instead, then the goal may have stood.
Inside a minute Liverpool were denied again by an offside flag, and this time the decision was deeply contentious. Bunn clearly fouled Maxi in the box and should have conceded a penalty, only for the official to raise his flag despite only Suarez being in an offside position.
Liverpool were made to pay for their misfortune in the final seconds of the half. After Daniel Agger was silly enough to concede a corner when trying to juggle the ball and boot it clear, Mortem Gamst Pedersen saw his delivery turned past Jose Reina by Adam, who was attempting to prevent Mauro Formica from converting.
The home side were level inside eight minutes of the restart though, as Blackburn’s young defence proved unable to clear their lines. After the ball popped up in the air, Martin Skrtel produced a beautiful volleyed cross for Maxi, who headed in unopposed at the far post.
The goal could have energised Liverpool and Suarez soon headed just wide from a corner, while Carroll saw an overhead kick blocked by Jason Lowe. However, they still lacked a certain something, something they thought could be provided by their returning captain, who made his first appearance since October when replacing Adam after 69 minutes.
Gerrard's first contribution was to produce a fine free-kick which Maxi headed just off target, before Liverpool were rightly denied a penalty when Agger threw himself to ground under minimal contact from Junior Hoilett and was booked for his troubles.
The chances continued to come and go for the home side as Carroll rose above Grant Hanley, only to head wide, while Blackburn’s best chance of the second half fell to Dunn before he collided with Yakubu and could only shoot wide from 10 yards.
As the game entered injury time there was still time for Liverpool to waste two more glorious chances. First Bunn threw out an arm to deny Carroll in quite sensational fashion, before the following corner saw Henley clear off the line to prevent Skrtel from converting with a header.
It was a tale of wastefulness and frustration that has been repeated all too frequently at Anfield this season.