Football / FA Cup: Liverpool ride luck to subdue buoyant Bolton

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Bolton Wanderers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

THE FA CUP holders were all but knocked out, comprehensively, in their first defence of the title yesterday, although a defeat here could not have been compared with Hartlepool's moment of glory. This was Wanderers' 15th game without defeat; they are a fast, hard opportunistic team who have a tradition in this competition and who might go far if good luck, conspicuously missing yesterday, follows them to Anfield in the third-round replay.

Conditions could not have been much worse for a team as edgy and apprehensive as Liverpool. The overnight temperature in Greater Manchester was -6.5C, which had improved to -3C by kick-off on a pitch that remained half-frozen despite the under-soil heating. Not that much of Liverpool's calamitous first half could have been blamed on the surface which improved through the second half as oncoming cloud masked the sun.

Liverpool could have been losing 4-0 by the interval. Once again the left side of their defence was vulnerable, particularly to the thrusts of John McGinlay.

The fair-haired Scot, 28, signed for pounds 100,000 from Millwall last autumn, is only of medium build and not of outstanding pace but he does have an uncanny positional sense. As early as the seventh minute he had found a gap, anticipated Scott Green's cross and side-footed a neat opening goal that was worth a half-pint of Scotch to most of the half-frozen 21,000 crowd.

Four minutes later he was through again, Mike Hooper almost fumbling his near-post header. By the 20th minute he had sliced through Liverpool's left, beaten Hooper and seen the ball rebound off a post.

Mark Seagraves' headed goal, a minute later, following a corner kick, merely confirmed Bolton's supremacy. Andy Walker, who mostly profits from McGinlay's maraudings, bodged a chance from five yards on the stroke of half-time.

As the pitch softened Liverpool, sadly missing the suspended Jamie Redknapp in central midfield, looked a little happier but made no progress until Ronny Rosenthal replaced Michael Thomas, who had made a gingerly return.

Within three minutes Rosenthal had picked up a deflection, scooted clear of Bolton's excellent central defenders, and fired his shot into a post from where the ball flew into his own net off Mark Winstanley, the stroke of luck Liverpool desperately needed.

With 10 minutes left an errant back-pass let in Steve McManaman, Keith Branagan blocking the shot and Rush potting the rebound for the equaliser. There has not been so much jubilation on Liverpool's bench since possibly at Wembley last May.

Liverpool, you will recall, had their share of escapes on their way to the final last season but will this time see themselves that much stronger: Barnes, Thomas, Wright amd Stewart are all available and the fast-advancing Redknapp will appear in the replay.

Bolton have not lost hope. As their manager, Bruce Rioch, said yesterday: 'We always have a hope because we create chances and we score goals. The fact that the lads are disappointed, after failing to beat Liverpool, is a measure of how well we are playing.'

Bolton Wanderers: Branagan; P Brown, Burke, Lee, Seagraves, Winstanley, Green, Kelly, Walker, McGinlay, Patterson. Substitutes not used: McAteer, Stubbs.

Liverpool: Hooper; Marsh, Jones, Nicol, Piechnik, Bjornebye, McManaman, Hutchison, Rush, Barnes, Thomas (Rosenthal, 53). Substitute not used: Stewart.

Referee: R Groves (Weston-super-Mare).

Reports, results, pages 22 and 23

(Photograph omitted)