Twelve Months On and Blackburn Proves to Be The Theatre of Drama Once Again
In January of last year things were looking very bleak for Roy Hodgson and Liverpool as their downward spiral continued and although the Kop had been calling for Kenny Dalglish to replace him, John Henry and Tom Werner had decided to stick with their manager in the hope that in the summer a younger man could be brought in.
With the fixture against Blackburn at Ewood Park everyone wondered if there would be a change in the team's fortunes or indeed would it be another wasted journey for those supporters who had bothered to travel. It was the latter of course and as the team let the pitch after being beaten once more, it became evident that something had to be done and done quickly.
What none of us knew that evening was that three days later Roy Hodgson would depart and the man they call the King, Kenny Dalglish would return to his throne after being called home from a cruise.
With Kenny now re-installed as Liverpool's manager, our football began to improve and last season we finished a lot better than people had expected. This of course gave us the supporters and the media high hopes for the future and everyone predicted that the Liverpool Football Club that people knew had returned.
But as is often the case, things never go to plan and Liverpool after a fantastic start, faltered in their assault on the league. Their performances as we all know have been well below par, so much so that everyone had begun to compare them with the Roy Hodgson reign. The football was good in parts but the lack of concentration and indeed effort from some of the players was a shock to the system.
Nobody knows why this happened but it appears that our victory in the Carling Cup Final seemed to give the players a license to stop doing what they were paid to be doing and coast along until the end of the season. This attitude has led us losing games that we should have won and we are no longer in contention for a Champions League place.
Our league position no longer matters but after a massive losing streak and with an FA Cup Semi Final in front of us everyone wondered which Liverpool team would turn up, when we made this season's return visit to Blackburn, who under the managerialship of Steve Keane, have their own problems. One of them, of course was to try and stop entering into the relegation zone and with Liverpool's confidence and form being so low, Blackburn believed that perhaps they could do the unthinkable and win the game once again.
Liverpool though with a team that consists of several changes, had other ideas and within minutes of the kick off, it became apparent that the Liverpool that wants to play a game of football turned up. What we did not know at the point was that we were all in for a roller coaster of an evening that would leave most supporters exhausted.
They had begun very brightly and it did not take long before Maxi Rodrigeux did what he does best when he is given game time. He was on the receiving end of a wonderful pass from Craig Bellamy that had been started by captain for the evening, Martin Skrtel and the ball was in the back of the net. Liverpool was in the lead and in control of the game. The football was fantastic to watch and even Andy Carroll appeared to be having the game of his life. He was here, there and everywhere and the Andy we were all watching was the Andy that we believed the club had bought in January 2011.
We were of course going to see further evidence of that before the final whistle but with seventy seven minutes of the game still to go, there was the small matter of keeping the lead or indeed improving it. It was improved upon of course three minutes later with another goal from Maxi who had picked up the ball after shots had been blocked from Andy Carroll and JonJo Shelvey, who having wormed his way through the Blackburn defence raced up the length of the pitch.
Liverpool were now two up and with a quarter of the half still to play, it would be case of ensuring that they played well enough to ensure a Liverpool victory, but where Liverpool are concerned, nothing is ever easy and suddenly things began to go very wrong, with young Jon Flanagan, nervously going into a tackle, which ended with him getting a yellow card.
Now he is very young and still learning but in hindsight perhaps Kenny should have taken him off the pitch there and then, because whether it was a case of him becoming even more nervous or indeed his immaturity on the pitch, he again made a mistake by sending a back pass towards Doni, who rather than let it pass him by, went out to collect and in doing so tripped up Junior Hoillett and was rewarded with a red card.
Liverpool was now down to ten men and with Kenny having to bring on Brad Jones, young Jon Flanagan was taken off. Brad of course was called into action immediately as Blackburn had been rewarded a penalty. Now the Yak was chosen to take the penalty, a penalty which you would normally expect to hit the back of the net. It did not; it fell straight into the hands of Brad, who immediately became a hero.
Yakubo of course was not very happy with this and with ten man Liverpool doing all they could to maintain the lead, he managed to find his way through the defence and after picking up a ball, sent a thunderous shot into the back of the net.
Liverpool went into the dressing room at half time with their lead now down to one goal and with only ten men on the pitch; it was going to be a battle of the fittest to ensure that they reached the ninety minute mark unscathed.
Blackburn of course had the advantage and was certainly not going to lie down quietly and take what was being thrown at them. The urgency that they began the half with suggested that they would at some point get the goal that would bring them level. It happened after an incident involving Brad Jones smashed a goal bound ball against the Yak and whilst doing so managed to trip him up.
Now some would argue at this point that the ball was going away from the goal but for several minutes most of us sat wondering if we would see Enrique in goal once more. Thankfully the card was yellow and the resulting penalty made the score 2-2.
It looked at this point as though Liverpool would either fold or indeed settle yet again for a draw, but to give credit where credit is due, they battled on and with Agger restored to the defence for the final quarter of the game, things were not looking good for Blackburn. Liverpool had also stayed awake with some superb play from all those involved in the game. They were doing all they could to get the ball towards Paul Robinson and with the game approaching its end, the improbable suddenly became possible.
Andy Carroll who had experienced the best game of his Liverpool career found himself looking towards Paul Robinson, when a long ball from Sebastian Coates, was picked up by Martin Skrtel and flicked towards him only to meet his head and find the back of the net.
Liverpool now only had around a minute and half to ensure the game was won and this they did ensuring that the confidence factor within the team had returned in time for the FA Cup Semi Final on Saturday.
The players have of course have now handed Kenny with a selection nightmare and we can only hope that those chosen do not revert to the Liverpool - I could not give a damn team on a day that could prove pivotal in their career not only of their manager but them as well.
It will also be the day when a dream comes true for stand in goalkeeper Brad Jones as he plays in a semi -final that two weeks ago he was nowhere near. A day that I believe was meant to happen for him and I can only think that up there in heaven little Luca is doing all he can to help him dad fulfil a wonderful dream.