Benitez puts his hopes in lucky break

Bolton Wanderers 2 Liverpool 3
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The Independent Online

International breaks are always an anxious time for Rafa Benitez. Three times in the past two seasons the Liverpool manager has waved off Fernando Torres only for the Spain striker to return to Anfield injured. Ryan Babel, Sami Hyypia, who has since left, and Yossi Benayoun have also been wounded in the heat of international battle in the past 12 months.

So Benitez can hardly be blamed for feeling some trepidation over the course of the next 10 days. Yet the Spaniard has reason to be feeling more jittery than ever as he monitors the progress of his players across the globe.

If the likes of Torres, Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, one of the few consistent performers in an inconsistent start for Liverpool, and Javier Mascherano can return unscathed, then Benitez can look forward to the rest of the season with much more optimism than before his side's laboured victory over Bolton.

By the time the Premier League resumes, Fabio Aurelio, the Brazilian full-back who has yet to play this season because of a knee injury, is expected to be pushing for a return, along with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel.

The restoration of Agger and Skrtel, who was missing at the Reebok because of a jaw injury, to the heart of the defence will at least ensure Benitez a less stressful afternoon than the one he experienced on Saturday when Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the Greece international defender, had a debut to forget alongside Jamie Carragher.

While there has been frustration among the club's followers about their team's indifferent start, Liverpool's players now report for their countries frustrated that they will have to wait until Burnley's visit to Anfield on 12 September for the opportunity to record back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.

"You could say the international break has come at a bad time, but it gives us time to get the likes of Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger fit," said Gerrard, scorer of Liverpool's late winner in a thrilling five-goal encounter.

It required the dismissal of Sean Davis for Liverpool to enforce their authority. Bolton were leading 2-1 thanks to goals by Kevin Davies and Tamir Cohen when Davis was dismissed in the 55th minute for his tackle from behind on Lucas.

Bolton believe the Liverpool midfielder made a meal of the challenge yet Davis needlessly picked up a first-half booking for kicking the ball away after the visitors had been awarded a free-kick.

The end of Davis spelt the end of Bolton's game plan. Gerrard, subdued after being man-marked by Fabrice Muamba, rattled the bar within seconds of Bolton having been reduced to 10 men before Torres equalised.

Liverpool, who had levelled first time round through Johnson, scored the winner seven minutes from the end, Gerrard's trademark finish from 16 yards going some way to erasing the pain of the 3-1 reversal to Aston Villa earlier in the week. "It was a difficult first 45 because Muamba was like my shadow," Gerrard added. "I'm sure if I'd have gone to the toilet he would have followed me, but he wasn't able to do that when they were down to 10 men.

"I've had a difficult start to the season. I held my hands up in the dressing room after the Aston Villa game and said I wasn't good enough."

The Bolton manager, Gary Megson, preferred to concentrate on Liverpool's tactics instead of reading Davis the riot act. "Did they take the rule out that if someone throws themselves over and they don't get booked that they can get punished for that?" he asked. "I think it is still in there but when did you last see that happen? Twice people chanced their arm on trying to get a penalty. I am not saying who they were. Tell me the last Bolton player you saw throwing themselves all over the place."

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Knight, Cahill, Samuel, Ricketts; Davis, Cohen (Steinsson, 79), Muamba (Riga, 89), Taylor; K Davies, Elmander (Basham, 56). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), A O'Brien, Robinson, Lee.

Liverpool (4-3-2-1): Reina; Johnson, Kyrgiakos, Carragher, Insua; Gerrard, Mascherano (Voronin, 74), Lucas; Riera (Benayoun, 63), Torres; Kuyt (Dossena, 89). Substitutes not used: Gulacsi (gk) Skrtel, Plessis, Kelly.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Bolton Cahill, Davis, Muamba; Liverpool Gerrard.

Sent off: Davis (54).

Man of the match: Johnson.

Attendance: 23,284.

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