In the end, Liverpool cruised to their fifth straight win and scored their 21st goal since that dour 0-0 draw away to Blackburn. But it could have been so different. Bolton made the trip to Anfield and would have been Wandering how they went into the break 2-0 down, as opposed to 1-1.
37 mins in, and with Liverpool comfortably 1-0 up, a long ball from Kevin Davies caused havoc in the heart of the Liverpool defence. Both Carragher and Reina went for ball with the normally rock solid defender getting a touch past Reina. The two collided and Nicolas Anelka found himself with the ball 8 yards out to the right of the penalty spot. The former Liverpool man shot first time when he had time to take a touch and pushed the ball outside the near post. Anfield breathed easy as another former player showed his soft-spot for the great club.
Liverpool had taken an early, and deserved, lead when Gerrard flung in an in-swinging corner for Hyypia to flick on past the stranded Jussi Jaskelinan. The captain produced an inch-perfect pass to Torres for the decisive goal as the young Spaniard took a touch and dinked the ball over Jaskelinan for a match-killing second and his 12th of the season. Gerrard calmly took his tenth goal of the season when he slotted home a penalty awarded for Meite's foul on Crouch in the area. I thought it was a little harsh and that the decision could've gone either way.
Gerrard was involved in Liverpool's fourth, as a sublime pass put Dirk Kuyt through and the Dutchman's shot was parried to the feet of Ryan Babel, on as a substitute for Harry Kewell, who made no mistake, tapping in at the far post.
In truth, Liverpool were as profligate as Anelka. Both Babel and Crouch (twice) had efforts cleared off the line while Torres and Gerrard had blocked shots when they could've just as easily hit the back of the net. Benayoun especially could've had a few as the Israeli constantly found himself in promising positions but found the bounce this afternoon wasn't as kind to him as against Beskitas.
As a team we seem to have discovered some rhythm and purpose. The back four looked comfortable with the triple threat of Anelka, Diouf and Davies and the full-backs were willing and able to go forward with impunity. I particularly liked the combination of Lucas and Gerrard in midfield. The talented Brazilian was able to sit deep, cover the back-four, start moves and, importantly, gave Gerrard license to play further forward where he can cause some real havoc - what price Lucas's name being inserted into the "best midfield in world" chant by the end of the season.
Also impressive was the partnership between Crouch and Torress - both of whom attract defenders and create space for the other. Against a team as limited as Bolton (who despite their win over Man Utd last week were very poor) this double threat, coupled with Gerrard was almost unplayable and, as I've alluded to, Bolton were lucky to only concede four. Jaskelinan played very well and it was a testament to his powers that Liverpool were confined to just four.
Kewell also played well and continued his good form as he tries to play his way back into fitness - as cliches go, he really will be like a new signing after nigh on three years out through assorted injuries. I thought Rafa left him on for a few too many minutes as by the time he was replaced by Babel, he was puffing a bit and losing his concentration.
One sour note was Carragher going off with a suspected recurrence of the rib injury he sustained against Sunderland after he collided with Reina - again! Even this wasn't to spoil the club's afternoon, as Jack Hobbs was able to make his first Premiership appearance and looked as calm and as composed as he has in the reserves for the past two years. He even added a new dimension to the defence as he played a superb ball up to Torres - who produced a beautifully weighted knock-down only for Crouch to mis-control. (Seconds later Crouch would be pulled down trying to get to Gerrard's cross so even this worked out well!) Carragher has since been given the all-clear by the club's medical staff and will likely feature against Reading next Saturday.
All in all very professional, very easy win that takes us up to third; ahead of Man Utd on goal difference (+20 vs +16) and with a game in hand over second place Chelsea who have a point advantage. Not bad for a club going through a crisis both on and off the field.
For those who want to see the goals, former Liverpool Offside editor Brian will likely have them over at Anfield Banter. I'm off to play in the snow here in Toronto.