Football: Liverpool suffering the half-time effect: Evans' interval worry

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 QUITE what Roy Evans says to the Liverpool players at half-time is concealed by a wall of dressing- room secrecy but the effect is not exactly on a par with Churchillian urgings to fight them on the beaches.

A Merseyside cynic - a not unknown species - might wonder if the promptings go along the lines of 'well lads, you've shown what can do, so stop now' because a trend is developing in Liverpool matches. For 45 minutes they whip the cream of the Premiership and then meekly hand back the initiative with the change of ends.

It happened against Manchester United and Newcastle and recurred again on Saturday: a first- rate first half followed by a second- best second. The opposition is either taking 45 minutes to fathom how to play Liverpool's 5-3-2 formation or someone is slipping a sleeping draft into the interval tea.

Evans does not need to fantasise about his team playing the best off the park because his charges have done it but the net result for his nearly men is one point from the three visits to their most dangerous rivals and the growing suspicion that, for all the improvements he has made, Liverpool are not quite good enough.

Certainly the manager seemed to be growing short of patience on Saturday. 'I don't know how to react,' he said. 'I'm pleased with the performance but disappointed with the result. I can't lay into the team because of their effort but the mistakes they made . . .' His voice tailed off in frustration.

This contest, between the pre- match third and fourth in the Premiership, had two dominant figures whose ascendancy was neatly divided by the interval. Before it Steve McManaman bewitched Blackburn, after it Chris Sutton, who improves with every inspection, assumed control.

As a consequence Liverpool arrived at the half-way point a goal ahead thanks to Robbie Fowler's deflected 30th-minute shot but left Ewood Park pointless even though John Barnes scored one of the best goals of his career with an overhead kick from Stig Inge Bjornebye's cross.

The difference, ultimately, was a matter of size. Fowler and Ian Rush are as deadly a striking combination as you are likely to find in England but they lack Sutton and Alan Shearer's physiques, which allow them to manhandle opponents. The Liverpool centre-backs are hardly shrinking violets when it comes to playing the heavy but on Saturday they seemed to bounce off the Blackburn duo. Strength when it is allied to this kind of skill is truly formidable.

Shearer made the first two goals with fierce crosses from the right of the area that were touched home by Mark Atkins and Sutton but Blackburn's third exemplified the latter half of the match. Sutton had a lucky rebound off Neil Ruddock's challenge but he accepted his fortune with a certainty that is rare. There was not the slightest suggestion he expected to miss despite the distance or the angle.

Afterwards Sutton's manager, Kenny Dalglish, got about as excited as he can about a player. 'Quite apart from his goals, he had a good match in terms of his distribution,' he said. 'He worked very hard for the other players.'

Asked whether he had fully fulfilled expectations since his pounds 5m transfer from Norwich in the summer, Dalglish replied: 'I've made worse signings.' Which in any other manager's language would mean yes.

Goals: Fowler (29) 0-1; Atkins (52) 1-1; Sutton (57) 2-1; Barnes (59) 2-2; Sutton (72) 3-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Gale, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley, Atkins, Warhurst, Wilcox; Shearer, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Slater, Pearce, Mimms (gk).

Liverpool (5-3-2): James; Jones, Scales, Ruddock, Babb, Bjornebye (Redknapp, 78); McManaman, Molby, Barnes; Rush, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Clough, Stensgaard (gk).

Referee: B Hill (Market Harborough).

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas