x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Gerrard gives Rafa all the right answers

Steven Gerrard provided the perfect riposte to questions about his form as Liverpool got back to winning ways.

BOLTON // Steven Gerrard provided the perfect riposte to questions about his form as Liverpool got back to winning ways. On the eve of yesterday's awkward trip to the Reebok Stadium, Rafael Benitez had suggested his inspirational captain was not performing at his best. The comments will have spurred Gerrard, who responded in the manner his manager wanted. The midfielder thumped home a volley in the 83rd minute to settle another difficult encounter against Bolton, who will point to a controversial red card as the turning point of the match.

Already on a yellow card, Sean Davis clambered on the back of Lucas as he sped towards the Bolton box in the 55th minute, and following the Brazilian's complaint to referee Alan Wiley, the Bolton midfielder was shown a second yellow card. As he trudged off forlornly, so too did Bolton's chance of inflicting Liverpool's third defeat in their first four games. Gary Megson's men were 2-1 up at the time through goals by Kevin Davies and Tamir Cohen, but Liverpool made the most of their advantage and levelled two minutes after the dismissal.

After Gerrard crashed a 20-yard effort against the bar, he crossed into the box for Dirk Kuyt, who cleverly set up Fernando Torres for a calm finish. It was harsh on Bolton, who have now suffered three defeats in succession. The hosts did not hold back against their Anfield rivals, who had beaten them in five league games in a row. It was that fierce determination that led to the opener in the 34th minute.

Matthew Taylor's corner was directed at the back post for the towering frame of Johan Elmander, who put the young Liverpool full-back Emiliano Insua under pressure. The ball fell perfectly for the lurking Davies who stabbed home his side's first goal this season from three yards. Glen Johnson put his side level four minutes before the break when he drilled in a low shot from just outside the box.

But Davies is a handful for anyone and it was no surprise he was involved in Bolton's second, flicking on a free kick from Jussi Jaaskelainen into the path of Cohen, who finished coolly. Bolton's joy lasted just eight minutes when Davis was dismissed. Torres and Gerrard thrived on the extra space and the Spaniard's third goal in as many games paved the way for his skipper to deliver the knockout blow.

akhan@thenational.ae