Liverpool elected to start with Suarez instead of Carroll, suggesting a less direct route would be the plan against the strong Bolton defence, which would include Cahill possibly for the last time if rumours were to be believed.
Certainly Suarez was prominent as Liverpool seized control of the match early, often found pulling out to the left while Kuyt played more up top. Suarez was working very hard to close Bolton down in particular, and was not afraid to throw himself to the ground to try to win freekicks either – not that any viewers of the 2010 World Cup would be surprised. The best chance of the opening exchanges would fall to Downing, released one-on-one but only able to show his chronic one-footedness as he overran the ball on his right foot and it was easily cleared without threatening Jaaskelainen’s goal.
The opening goal would come from another piece of excellent play from Suarez wide on the left. He found Downing with a cross to the near post who drew an impressive clawed save out of Jaaskelainen, but Bolton were unable to clear and the ball fell to Henderson, who’s first shot was fortunately blocked into the perfect position for him to place his second in the top corner.
Suarez was at the heart of most of Liverpool’s positive play, releasing Downing down the left with a beautiful pass, drawing a save out of Jaaskelainen himself after being played in by Adam (curiously not reflected in the stats), then lifting a lob just over the Bolton bar in another one-on-one.
It was all Liverpool to this point, with Reina having little to do except flap at a cross. The ineffectual Muamba came off after 25 minutes for Mark Davies, which helped Bolton to their first real period of possession in the match, although they weren’t able to create anything from it as they struggled to get the ball into the final third.
In fact the teams seemed to cancel each other out for the rest of the half, with only the sublime (a Mark Davies run from his own half to a shot on the edge of the Liverpool box) and the ridiculous (an Adam dive and a Steinsson handball right on the edge of his own box) standing out in this period.
The second half began almost identically to the first with Liverpool seizing control – although Suarez’s “dive” this time around would later be revealed as a subtle trip by Knight. Liverpool’s increased pressure would also result in a goal for Skrtel, and this deflated Bolton to the point that they immediately gifted Liverpool the third by not bothering to close down Kuyt or Adam, who was able to simply slot home with his right foot from the edge of the box.
It was now just a question of how many Liverpool wanted to score, but they seemed content with 3-0. Bolton seemed just as content with that scoreline as they removed Kevin Davies for an additional midfielder. The game petered out, with only periodic claims for backpasses (justified) and penalties (unjustified) punctuating the little action occurring. Suarez’s removal for Carroll removed Liverpool’s main creative force with 15 minutes to go and signalled the end of meaningful proceedings, except for a mistake from Carragher gifting Bolton a goal they didn’t really deserve.
Bolton were woeful, Liverpool efficient. It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from such a one-sided affair, but it’s hard to see how Bolton were able to keep Manchester City honest on Monday yet capitulate so meekly here.
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