Steven Gerrard has long specialised in the role of comic-book hero. And, he executed it to perfection.
Cole's goal, Gerrard's work is the usual at Liverpool
LIVERPOOL // The script is so old it is hackneyed, worn out by sequel after sequel. Yet it retains its capacity to excite, to provoke a sense of wonder and to enthral the thousands who love its happy endings. Steven Gerrard has long specialised in the role of comic-book hero. And, he executed it to perfection.
He is indeed Liverpool's Roy of the Rovers. Roy of the Merseysiders is an altogether less charismatic and more unpopular figure, but he was granted a reprieve by his captain.
Roy Hodgson remains in a perilous position, but an ignominious end to his six months on Merseyside beckoned when his side trailed to Bolton Wanderers.
Beaten by Wolverhamptom Wanderers four days earlier, this seemed one humiliation too far. Instead, the captain did what the manager has often failed to do and roused Liverpool. Not for the first time, his was a catalytic contribution.
Gerrard it was who supplied the lovely, curling pass that Fernando Torres volleyed in for the equaliser.
Gerrard it was, too, who provided the deep cross that preceded the winner. It was met by Maxi Rodriguez and touched over the line rather greedily by Joe Cole.
"The players are adamant Joe Cole was offside," said Bolton's manager Owen Coyle.
Hodgson countered: "Even if you win to a controversial goal, I don't think we should be in any way apologising for it and anyone who begrudges us it is a very churlish person. I'm very proud of the performance."
After the interval, there was much to encourage Liverpool. Torres stirred himself from his lethargy, a scything solo run ending with a shot that almost went in at the far post. A second volley narrowly missed the near post.
"I think we will see Fernando in that type of form for the rest of the season," Hodgson said. "I thought his work rate, his effort and his determination were really first class. I saw today a player who was world class."
So, too, is Gerrard. Left on the bench after playing for 90 minutes against Wolves, he was soon summoned.
"When he does come on, he is such a great player, he has a big effect," Hodgson said.
The manner of the comeback, he suggested, was validation.
"I know when players are behind their club and behind their manager and I know when they're not," he said. "Anyone who seriously suggests they are not behind me or the club after that is wrong."
In truth, the likelihood is that the decision about his future has already been taken. Opinions, certainly on the terraces and probably in the boardroom, will not be changed.
Unlike on Wednesday, there were no chants suggesting Hodgson should manage anyone else but the crowd of 35,400 was depressingly low. Many voted with their feet and stayed away.
But he was spared an open revolt which, at the interval, appeared a distinct possibility. It was, in every respect, a game of two halves.
Bolton's lead at the interval was well taken and deserved. Matt Taylor's free kick was delivered dangerously.
Kevin Davies rose typically but too easily, having evaded Glen Johnson to head in.
Liverpool threatened only from two deep Dirk Kuyt crosses. The first led to a Rodriguez header that clipped the top of the bar; the second, minutes after Bolton's goal, found a sliding Lucas Leiva whose scuffed effort went wide.
Bolton were so depleted by suspension, injury, international call-ups and compassionate leave that Coyle was only able to name three outfield players on the bench.
He is making the most of limited resources and, after the evidence of the abilities of Gerrard and Torres, the same cannot be said for Hodgson.