x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Skipper Gerrard the headmaster

Liverpool stole a march on Chelsea to move top of the table thanks to victory over a resolute Bolton Wanderers.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, right, celebrates his goal with Fernando Torres.
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, right, celebrates his goal with Fernando Torres.

BOLTON // Liverpool stole a march on Chelsea to move top of the table thanks to victory over a resolute Bolton Wanderers. Although the two goal advantage would appear to suggest otherwise, Liverpool were involved in a relatively even contest against Gary Megson's side who were looking to make it three Premier League wins on the trot. However, the sheer difference in class - aided and abetted by a much larger chequebook - eventually paid dividends for the visitors but they know the much improved Bolton could easily have gained a point from this contest. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said: "I think we deserved the win. We had a lot of opportunites and it could have been better. "It's important for us (going top of the table) and our fans. They were not very happy after the Carling Cup defeat but I am really pleased we are there now." Both teams started with fresh, attacking intent and although they looked dangerous in the build-up, the game's opening exchanges produced precious few coherent chances on goal. The best did not arrive until the 28th minute when Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt hit the bar after a superb exhibition of counter-attacking football. Albert Reira turned defence into attack as he launched a long ball which found Kuyt and after linking Steven Gerrard, the Dutchman then struck a 15 yard attempt against the woodwork. The away team then began to dominate as Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Riera made it look easy, ensuring pass after pass found a red shirt and the growing feeling that a goal was imminent was finally proved correct when Liverpool took the lead with 17 minutes of the first half remaining. Riera received the ball down the left wing and, after an initial cross attempt was thwarted, he knocked the ball to Fabio Aurelio who delivered the perfect cross for Kuyt to brilliantly head past Jussi Jaaskelainen for his seventh goal of the season. Two minutes later Robbie Keane should have doubled the lead but somehow failed to poke home a Kuyt cross when virtually on the goalline. It was a let-off Bolton desperately required, although they did nothing constructive with the reprieve as the visitors continued to dominate. Gary Cahill had a goal disallowed on the stroke of half-time after Liverpool keeper Jose Reina was obstructed by Kevin Nolan from a corner and although referee Rob Styles was heartily booed for the decision, replays suggested he had made the right call. But there was no convincing Bolton boss Gary Megson, who said: "I've viewed it again and there seems nothing wrong with it." Bolton looked much fresher after the break and Kevin Davies forced a good save from Reina, volleying well from a tight angle before substitute Ricardo Gardner squandered the chance of the match. He broke away from Liverpool's defence, rounded Reina and only had to put the ball in the empty net but slipped over as his effort drifted past the post. Keane was replaced by Fernando Torres on the hour and he immediately made an impact, providing Gerrard with the simplest of tap-ins but he followed Keane's shocking first half example and missed when it would have been simpler to score. However, after 73 minutes Gerrard comprehensively atoned for his earlier error, diving to head home a stunning cross from Torres to finally seal the tie. sports@thenational.ae