Reds held by battling Rovers

The England international, sidelined since October with an ankle

problem, played the final 21 minutes but could not inspire a change

in fortunes against the Premier League’s bottom club. Kenny

Dalglish’s side, although unbeaten at home this season, have now

drawn six and won three and been held five times in the last six

outings at Anfield. And had it not been for Maxi Rodriguez’s 11th

goal in his last 12 starts the result could have been more

embarrassing after Charlie Adam had put through his own net on the

stroke of half-time. A familiar pattern of failing to take chances

emerged very early on but the difference here, throughout the whole

side, was the lack of spark and crispness which the Reds have

usually had. Luis Suarez’s second-minute free-kick which sailed

just over set the tone before Adam sliced an ambitious volley from

outside the area which gave Mark Bunn, deputising for the injured

Paul Robinson, a much easier save than he could have anticipated.

There followed two efforts from Suarez, one into the side-netting

from Glen Johnson’s pass, and the other missing the target

completely with a left-footed shot from a similar position on the

right of the penalty area. In recent months opposition goalkeepers

have made a habit of saving their best performances for Anfield and

Bunn’s point-blank block from Andy Carroll, starting for the first

time in four matches, after Downing had kept in Jose Enrique’s deep

cross had a familiar look to it. Carroll had a goal ruled out on

the half-hour as Suarez was offside and the assistant’s flag

rescued Bunn from conceding a penalty when he brought down

Rodriguez, although it was inactive Suarez and not the Argentinian

who had got ahead of the Rovers defence. Blackburn’s attacking was

sporadic at best and when they did get a chance to test the meanest

defence in the Barclays Premier League they wasted it as Ayegbeni

Yakubu’s cross from a quickly-taken corner was well over-hit. In

the end they needed a helping hand as, totally against the run of

play, Adam diverted Morten Gamst Pedersen’s inswinging corner past

his own goalkeeper just seconds before half-time. It capped a

disappointing few days for the Scotland international, who also put

through his own net against Rovers for Blackpool last season, as he

missed a penalty in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Wigan. It took

Liverpool eight minutes to equalise. Downing’s cross was cleared

only as far as Martin Skrtel who hooked the ball back to the far

post where Rodriguez headed in from close range. The goal gave the

Reds the spark they needed and, with Bunn wasting time at every

opportunity, Suarez headed wide Downing’s corner from a spot very

close to where his team-mate had equalised. A Carroll overhead kick

was cleared by Grant Hanley while another Rodriguez far-post

header, this time back across the six-yard area was crying out for

a final touch with no Liverpool player anywhere near. Gerrard

finally got his long-awaited return to action in the 69th minute

when he replaced Adam and ran straight on to curl in a free-kick

which was headed over by Rodriguez. Suarez then headed over

Johnson’s cross before the England defender was relieved to see

David Dunn stab wide after needlessly giving away possession in

midfield. The action intensified as Carroll headed wide Enrique’s

cross, Rodriguez made way for Craig Bellamy to come on against his

former club and Downing rolled a left-footed shot too close to Bunn

having been played in by Gerrard. Liverpool twice thought they had

stolen the points in the closing moments, Carroll drawing a fine

save from Bunn with a close-range volley and 17-year-old Adam

Henley, on his first senior start, clearing off the line after

Daniel Agger’s header from the subsequent corner. Such problems

cannot be allowed to continue for Kenny Dalglish, who must surely

have to address the issue of a lack of goals in the coming transfer

window. Blackburn’s players celebrated a hard-earned point at the

final whistle but their difficulties – they remain bottom of the

table – will probably take more fixing.