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WhoScored: Cesc driving Chelsea on

Tactics And Analysis 8 hours ago
Read
Jan 21, 2012

Reds shocked, Torres misfires

Liverpool turned in a quite shocking display as Bolton completely battered their visitors at the Reebok Stadium. The final score finished 3-1, courtesy of goals from Mark Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker and Gretar Rafn Steinsson, but that winning margin could have been far wider.

The Reds got off to a poor start at the Reebok, falling behind after just three minutes when their defence left a gaping hole for Davies to penetrate. After Martin Skrtel was pulled out of position, Glen Johnson inexplicably chose not to fill the hole, allowing Davies to stride right through the centre of the Reds' defence to slide past Pepe Reina.

It could have got immediately worse for Liverpool when Jose Enrique lost the ball whilst running towards his own goal, allowing Chris Eagles to stab the ball right across the visitors' goal-line. Kenny Dalglish's side failed to heed the warning and Bolton cut them to shreds once again for their second. A one-touch passing move completely scythed through the Reds' midfield, and Reo-Coker timed his unmarked run to perfection to poke past Reina.

Liverpool failed to create much, but they did at least halve the deficit before half-time when Craig Bellamy latched onto Andy Carroll's flick-on to dink the ball over Adam Bogdan.

A Liverpool onslaught was expected in the second period, but instead it was Bolton who remained the far better side, restoring their lead five minutes after the interval. A simple Martin Petrov corner was headed back across goal, and slack marking allowed Steinsson to bury a superb volley.

Daniel Agger tried to make up for his part in Liverpool's defensive shocker by cracking the bar from 25 yards, while the cumbersome Carroll took a complete air-shot after Stewart Downing's cut-back to cement the Merseysiders' misery.

Chelsea's slim hopes of winning the Premier League became even more slender as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Norwich.

Andre Villas-Boas's side, already 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester City at the start of play, had plenty of chances but could not convert as Norwich held on to claim their first clean sheet since earning promotion back to the Premier League.

Chelsea began the brighter of the two but it was the home side who had the first chance of the game. Anthony Pilkington raced down the right and fired a cross-shot at Petr Cech, who only managed to parry the ball straight into the path of the on-running Steve Morison. Fortunately for the Chelsea keeper one of his defenders averted the danger before Morison could pull the trigger, though Norwich's threat on the counter had been highlighted.

The Blues, who lost Frank Lampard in the first-half due to a calf injury, should have gone ahead shortly after the hour mark. Somehow finding space in a congested penalty area, Torres collected Jose Bosingwa's cross and, after setting himself, the Spaniard fired agonisingly wide from seven yards.

Chelsea continued to press but Norwich refused to yield and deservedly held out for a draw - a point which leaves Paul Lambert's in the relative comfort of being 12 points above the relegation zone after 22 games.

QPR began the day in the relegation zone and knowing defeat at home to the league's bottom club would spell a horror start to Hughes' spell as manager. However, Rangers were a cut above Wigan at Loftus Road and were well worth their 3-1 victory, which saw them awarded two penalties.

The deadlock could have been broken long before Heidar Helguson's opener in the 33rd minute, with Shaun Wright-Phillips particularly prominent for the home side. In the end, it needed a handball decision against James McCarthy to gift QPR their breakthrough, Helguson converting the spot-kick despite the fact Ali Al-Habsi dived the right way.

By half-time Rangers led by two thanks to another dead-ball opportunity, this time a direct free-kick taken by Akos Buzsaky. Clipping the ball to Al-Habsi's right, the ball squeezed past the Wigan keeper off an upright.

The visitors gave themselves hope when Hugo Rodallega halved the deficit midway through the second half, and those hopes grew when Al-Habsi saved Helguson's second penalty of the day. However, a super strike from Tommy Smith finally made the points safe for Rangers, arrowing the ball into the top corner from 25 yards with nine minutes remaining.

Blackburn remain outside the relegation zone on goal difference and they can take heart from a 1-1 draw to Everton at Goodison Park. Rovers' stay 17th as Wolves drop into the bottom three.

Blackburn actually had every right to complain over the assist for Everton's opener, after the ball appeared to be nudged quite clearly by the arm of Marouane Fellaini into Tim Cahill's path. However, after 14 months without a league goal, Cahill wasted no time in smashing the ball into the net from close range.

Justice, as far as Rovers were concerned, arrived in the second half when David Goodwillie added to his good recent record with a poacher's effort to earn the visitors a point.

Robbie Keane came back to haunt old club Wolves as Aston Villa won 3-2 against ten-man Wanderers. The Villans had not lost to their Midlands rivals at Molineux for 33 years, and on his 53rd birthday Alex McLeish was delivered the perfect present as Keane netted a match-winning brace.

Mick McCarthy kept faith with the side that claimed a 1-1 draw at Spurs in their last league outing, but they were behind after 11 minutes when Christophe Berra conceded a penalty. Darren Bent stepped up and calmly sent Wayne Hennessey the wrong way from 12 yards.

The lead did not last long though, with the forgotten figure of Michael Kightly equalising after a fine ball from Emmanuel Frimpong, cutting inside Ciaran Clark to guide a left-footed curler past Shay Given. And by half-time it was Wolves who led, David Edwards notching at a corner to the delight of the home crowd.

However, Keane makes a habit of scoring against former clubs, and after Clark's nod down the Republic of Ireland international levelled the scores. Wolves then lost Frimpong to a worrying-looking injury and Karl Henry followed - this time for a red card, and Villa made the most of the numerical advantage as Keane netted the winner.

Swansea may have drawn comparisons to Barcelona following their 3-2 win over Arsenal last week, but their away-day woes continued as Sunderland became the seventh side to beat the Swans on their travel this season. Martin O'Neill's men are flying since the Ulsterman's arrival, and goals from Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner secured a 2-0 victory.

The Black Cats lost Nicklas Bendtner to injury early at the Stadium of Light, but they quickly found the net without him as Sessegnon converted a classy goal. The goal of the game was stil to arrive though as Gardner came off the bench to score an extraordinary volley.

Newcastle failed to take advantage of the chance to move within two points of Chelsea as they lost 5-2 against Fulham at Craven Cottage. Alan Pardew's men miss the chance to move above Arsenal into fifth with the result, and Pardew is likely to cite a controversial refereeing decision as the game's turning point.

Having dominated much of the opening 43 minutes, it was no surprise when Newcastle took the lead, although the identity of the scorer was less predictable. Danny Guthrie received the ball 25 yards from goal, and from the moment the ball left his foot it was destined to hit the back of David Stockdale's net.

There was little to worry Pardew until a challenge from Davide Santon on the edge of the Newcastle area, adjudged to have taken place inside the box by referee Lee Mason. Danny Murphy, prolific penalty taker, stepped up and comfortably equalised for the hosts.

That changed the momentum of the contest and, much as Fulham did against Arsenal, they completely turned the tables through a predatory strike from Clint Dempsey. The American then added his second for 3-1 with 25 minutes remaining, before Bobby Zamora made it four from the spot when Andrew Johnson was fouled by Tim Krul.

Hatem Ben Arfa scored a late consolation for the visitors, but Dempsey converted his hat-trick to seal a wonderful result for the Cottagers.

In the afternoon's other game, Stoke stumbled in their pursuit of Europa League qualification with a 2-1 defeat against West Brom at the Britannia Stadium. Having drawn at Anfield last week, the Potters could have moved within two points of Liverpool ahead of the Reds' evening kick-off at Bolton.

However, the Baggies dominated the opening 45 minutes and deservedly led through James Morrison. The goal was the least the visitors deserved, although Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen was hugely culpable for allowing the ball to go through him.

Stoke had the chance to lift a quite awful performance when Jon Walters earned a second-half spot-kick, but Ben Foster saved the striker's effort. Cameron Jerome then thought he had earned a point with an 86th-minute equaliser, but Graham Dorrans won it for West Brom in injury-time.

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