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Liverpool Football Club took to the field at Ewood Park on Tuesday night in the midst of their worst run of form in 50 years. Normally considered a routine victory for the club from Merseyside, especially given the precarious position of opposing side Blackburn Rovers, victory was anything but assured for Kenny Dalglish’s men.
An electric start for the visitors saw Liverpool take a two goal lead thanks to some lethargic defending from Blackburn and two Maxi Rodriguez strikes. It was not long after however and Liverpool’s recent run of form seemed to kick in, first with the sending off of goalkeeper Alexander Doni, albeit substitute goalkeeper Brad Jones saved the resulting penalty, and two goals from Rovers striker Yakubu had levelled the scores.
With time running down and Liverpool having been forced to play with just ten men for the majority of the match, Blackburn were increasing the tempo and trying to find a goal which would earn them an invaluable three points. Unfortunately for the home fans however, it was the much maligned Liverpool forward Andy Carroll who grabbed a winner, powering a header beyond the helpless Paul Robinson.
Liverpool may not have played their best football this season, but they have also had their fair share of bad luck, and this game may signal a change in fortunes for the club. Having lost games in the dying minutes with alarming regularity this season, the result against Blackburn will have come as sweet relief to many of Liverpool’s fans and players, none more so than out -of-form striker Carroll.
The former Newcastle man has suffered a torrid start to his Liverpool career, notching just nine goals in his first 50 appearances for the club, much of which has been attributed his inflated transfer fee of £35 million and the resulting loss of confidence after he was unable to perform to a standard befitting the fee in his first few months on Merseyside.
This late goal could change everything for Carroll. The relief and joy of scoring was clearly visible on Carroll’s face as he ran off to celebrate his winning goal, and has already warned local rivals Everton that his side are high no confidence as they head into their FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley on Saturday.
The challenge for Dalglish remains to get the best out of both Carroll and fellow striker Luis Suarez when they are both on the pitch together, and is an unenviable task. Should Dalglish succeed however, then the rest of the English Premier League will need to sit up and take notice as the physicality and aerial ability of Carroll interspersed with ball skills and finishing of Suarez could yet be a feared strike force.
Far more important than the three points received for the victory, as Champions League qualification is no longer a realistic proposition for Liverpool, is the sense of belief that it will have given back to the players whose lack of confidence has been visible in recent displays. Although not yet a squad capable of challenging for the EPL, they are a talented group who will feel confident about their chances of picking up their second trophy of the season in the FA Cup.
Although the result is anything but a foregone conclusion for either side, with both the red and blue halves of Merseyside descending on Wembley this Saturday one thing can be taken for granted, there’s going to be fireworks.