The Reds were sent crashing out of the league cup after a 3-2 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers. The Reds twice made comebacks from a single goal deficit but deservedly lost to a last minute Djorkaeff penalty.
The Reds attacked the Anfield Road end in the first half with Danny Murphy captaining the Reds side which was changed around quite a bit. Attacking midfielder Le Tallec was brought in up front whilst recent right back Diao was pushed back to central midfield and recent left back Traore was pushed to centre back. Jon Otsemobor came in at right back.
The Reds were behind within three and a half minutes when Mario Jardel nodded home at the back post virtually unchallenged. The second game on the run now that the Reds have conceded sloppily at the back post. The Reds were so nearly back on level terms within a minute. Riise sent a free kick in on goal which the keeper couldn't hold and Smicer raced in to put the rebound in the net but saw his shot saved and then bounce back up off his shin to go over the bar.
Emile Heskey missed with a good volley a couple of minutes later as the Reds tried to get back in the game but struggled to really get going at all. Otsemobor went on some runs in the half and throughout the game overall which generated some danger but it was rare in Red on the night.
The men in Red simply didn't look like they could hack the pace of the game which was slow as it was. Otsemobor and Biscan were the only players looking worth their wages. Diouf is suffering poor form, Diao has limitations as it is and is now being rotated around positions like Biscan used to be whilst Le Tallec simply isn't a striker and needs to toughen up yet.
Bolton nearly doubled the lead shortly after the half hour when Okocha shot from 50 yards. Dudek seemed to be daydreaming at the time and somehow palmed the ball away at the last minute before suggesting a strain in his leg which disappeared minutes later. The half simply couldn't end quick enough and an injection of fresh blood was surely needed.
The second half go underway with no changes in personnel but the Reds were a little more fired up for a bit at least. Heskey saw a goalbound header cleared from the line on fifty three minutes and like the weekend gone you hoped that the Reds were building up a head of steam. Four minutes later though and Bolton should have scored again. Jardel was played through behind a sleeping Traore but Dudek after initially hesitating managed to block the shot with his feet.
Harry Kewell and Florent Sinama Pongolle were brought on just short of the hour mark for Le Tallec and Diouf. The injection of new players surely had to have an affect and nearly did straight away. Kewell released Riise in the box but his shot glanced the bar on its way out from a venomous shot. The equalising goal though finally came on sixty six minutes from Danny Murphy who headed home superbly from a Diao cross on the main stand side.
Steven Gerrard came on straight after the goal and took the captain's armband virtually straight away. The Reds were surely now going to turn on the style and cap off the night with a flattering scoreline. Think again. Bolton had the ball in the net on seventy seven minutes but for a reason only known to the referee he disallowed Djorkaeffs goal. The assistant referee clearly flagged that the ball went over the line but the ref decided foul play and disallowed it. That was surely the fright to inject the passion.
Two minutes later and the Reds really were two one down. Salif Diao flew through the air with studs showing to win a ball just outside the Reds box. He won the ball, just but the referee deemed foul play. The Reds line was lined up by Dudek, who then ran to one side of his goal. Gerrard frantically tried to wave Dudek more central as one half the goal was unguarded but he ignored him. Okocha took advantage and fired into the empty side of the net with Dudek stood motionless. Gerrard went ballistic at Dudek before running to get the game underway again.
Miraculously the Reds grabbed a lifeline with two minutes to go as Smicer first evaded his marker and then from the edge of the box bent a shot in past Poole. Extra time now surely for the Reds as some fans were debating whether silver goal counted or the whole extra time was played.
They needn't have bothered as Bolton won the game with a last minute penalty conceded by Salif Diao. A very poor challenge in the box brought Davies down and the referee had no choice but to award the spot kick. Djorkaeff and with the ball in front of the spot dispatched the penalty past Dudek. There was just about time for Riise to blast the ball into the side netting at the other end but then the final whistle went and a fair number of boo's reigned around Anfield.
The Reds simply didn't deserve to win this game and didn't. Maybe they will concentrate on the league more now but a successful run of two games to build confidence is gone now and they must start all over again.
MotM : Jon Otsemobor - how much more we'll see of the right back remains to be seen but on this evidence he deserves a run until Carragher and Finnan are fit again. After a nervous start he performed well and his attacking play was superb on the night. Igor Biscan had a couple of shaky moments but was the only other player worthy of note.