Football: Fowler endures an on-off day

Bolton Wanderers 1 Blake 84 Liverpool 1 Fowler 1 Attendance: 2 5,000
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The Independent Online
Liverpool surrendered the initiative of a comfortable kickabout - long before Robbie Fowler's dismissal in effect cost the win - by failing to penalise a woefully wasteful Bolton. Reluctance to turn such overwhelming domination into goals was typical of this Liverpool outfit, dazzling in flashes and infuriating at other times for their manager Roy Evans.

Fowler's sending-off, for an off-the-ball punch at Per Frandsen in full view of the referee, extended an open invitation to the home side to sneak in through the back door. Nathan Blake's equaliser, a sweet downward header from a Jimmy Phillips cross which drifted over the Liverpool defence, was an almost inevitable conclusion to a frantic finale.

The Bolton revival was clearly sparked by a change of formation. Peter Beardsley's anonymity in a roving role behind the front two strikers was sacrificed for a fourth man in midfield, Arnar Gunnlaugsson, cancelling Liverpool's mastery of the middle third.

That comfort in possession, though, was not converted into sufficient threat to bury Bolton, who make up for a lack of quality with a resilient spirit. Fowler's individual frustration was heightened when Keith Branagan foiled a one-on-one gift for the Liverpool striker.

The visitors' goal was a strangely pedestrian affair, Oyvind Leonhardsen reaching the byline in the first minute in the absence of a committed Bolton defence. A simple pullback found Fowler, whose first-time shot hit the bottom corner. A similar build-up, this time down Leonhardsen's natural left flank, was Liverpool's best other effort in a niggly first half.

Evans said: "Robbie has apologised. He realises it doesn't help him missing games but it also lets the team down. You very rarely win games with 10 men. But we created enough chances on the break to have won the game comfortably.

"There were so many things going on off the ball. If the referee had got a grip earlier on it might have saved all the aggro. The guy has had a kick and a swing before which goes unnoticed. I have no defence for Robbie but that is the thing which baffles managers. Pollock got away with murder," expanded Evans, who now also faces the loss of the yellow- card recipient Paul Ince.

The Bolton manager, Colin Todd, concentrated on the legitimate battling qualities of his side. "They might have had a lot of possession but we restricted them to shots from outside the area. I'm delighted with our home form. In terms of commitment and desire and working 100 per cent, it was excellent.

"I've had to change the system 60 minutes into the game and we looked far better balanced. Mark Fish has shown today what a good player he is. We haven't conceded a lot of goals here and that's important as you always have a chance of getting back into the game," said Todd, who introduced the debutant Franz Carr as a late right-wing substitute who made an immediate impact.

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