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Liverpool 0, Bolton 0: First Thoughts

On a day of cupsets in the FA Cup, Liverpool were held to a goalless draw at home to a stubborn Bolton Wanderers.

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

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Liverpool 0
Bolton 0

  • Pre-match thoughts: Brendan Rodgers confirmed in his pre-match duties that Mario Balotelli, Joe Allen, and Glen Johnson were all available for action. Dejan Lovren was training too. How many would start against Bolton Wanderers? Two. Allen and Johnson came in for Lucas and Martin Skrtel while Lovren made the bench. Mario Balotelli did not make the matchday squad, but Jordan Rossiter did. There were five changes from the side that drew with Chelsea at Anfield earlier in the week. José Enrique, Javier Manquillo, and Adam Lallana all started.

  • The first half hour was full of Liverpool possession in pursuit of an opening goal against a stubborn Championship side that have become defensively organised and hard to beat under Neil Lennon. Bolton's away support was fierce and so was their defending. It was interesting to see old Premier League faces such as Eidur Gudjohnsen and Emile Heskey in action. The home side's main tactic seemed to be to release Raheem Sterling into space on the inside left channel, and the youngster's movement was more effective than his work in the area.

  • There were a couple of counter attacking opportunities for Bolton looked threatening even if they broke down before creating a shooting opportunity. Dean Moxey's sweet long-range strike after the half hour mark travelled wide of Simon Mignolet's right, but it was a warning for the home side.

  • Mamadou Sakho and Emre Can were majestic in how they defended and passed the ball. Can may prefer playing in midfield but has to feature in defence for the rest of the season. As for Sakho, if there's any player in the squad who feels that playing as a left-sided centre back is where they'd show their best for Liverpool, they have to be prepared to be a reserve. 

  • Half-time thoughts: Coutinho was the most enterprising attacking player on the pitch, but if only he had the shooting ability of a player like Pavel Nedvěd! Emile Heskey led the line quite well on his return to his former club, and Bolton were very much in the game. More of the same from the visitors wouldn't be the worst tactic against a home side that did not seriously test Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan. Liverpool lacked penetration from the wide areas, and the introduction of Lazar Marković for Enrique made sense. Rodgers kept Manquillo on to assist Johnson on the right side while Sakho would provide security on the left behind the marauding Marković.

  • Bolton started the second half with a higher tempo and increased pressing compared to end of the first half. The first contentious decision arrived within five minutes as Marković attempted to break through into the area but was caught on the edge by Matt Mills, who was on a yellow card. It happened quickly but Kevin Friend had one decision to make. Bolton should have faced Liverpool with only ten players for the remainder of the game. Lucas Leiva was brought on for the disappointing Joe Allen with around twenty minutes to go, and Fabio Borini was also introduced for Manquillo.

  • The increased tempo of the game brought two good chances for Gudjohnsen either side of the hour mark. Liverpool were in a real battle and Alex McCarthy Adam Bogdan was having an excellent game. Anything Liverpool threw at Bogdan was dealt with, and Bolton looked increasingly dangerous. Liverpool tried to find a winner with half-chances in the last twenty minutes, but couldn't create enough chances against a stubborn resistance.

  • Kevin Friend made another poor decision when he failed to give a penalty on the 80 minute mark after substitute Jay Spearing pushed Henderson in the area before the Liverpool captain could strike the ball at goal. Along with the Marković-Mills red card decision and numerous rough challenges that were ignored, this was a game to forget for the referee. A late Lucas Leiva shot was saved in added time, but that was it.

  • Full-time thoughts: It's another game for an increasingly demanding schedule as Bolton earned a replay. Liverpool didn't play badly and did okay against a well-drilled side. Brendan Rodgers needs a striker that he can trust to score goals in the absence of Daniel Sturridge. It wasn't the result the Liverpool fans wanted, but after looking at today's games in the FA Cup, it could have been a lot worse.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.

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