Liverpool benefited from Manchester United's defeat at Portsmouth to climb to sixth in the Premiership table, but missed the opportunity to jump above Bolton into fifth spot after losing an early lead at Ewood Park last night, coming up against a Blackburn side who produced a performance at odds with their lowly position.
But of greater concern to their manager, Rafael Benitez, was what looked an horrific injury to the £14m striker Djibril Cissé, who suffered a broken leg in a blameless challenge with Blackburn's Jay McEveley towards the end of the first half, pictures of which looked horribly reminiscent of the injury that ended the Coventry defender David Busst's career in April 1996.
Cissé was removed from the pitch on a stretcher in tears and taken directly to hospital, and Benitez was unable to shed any light immediately on the seriousness of the break. "He has gone to hospital, we shall have to keep our fingers crossed and wait and see," the Spaniard said.
Fellow striker Milan Baros said: "I heard a crack and thought it was broken. All we can do is wish the best for him and hope he comes back as soon as possible."
Liverpool had revealed intent from the outset, Cissé testing Brad Friedel from 30 yards before John Arne Riise set up Baros with a chance that perhaps ought to have seen the visitors in front. But it was not long before the opening goal arrived, Blackburn's defence undone as Riise timed his run to dart through behind their lines on the left, collecting Xabi Alonso's pass in his stride before beating Friedel with a diagonal left-foot strike.
Mark Hughes must have feared another uncomfortable 90 minutes. Instead, Blackburn, benefited from the return of Tugay in midfield, recovered to draw level through Jay Bothroyd and reached half-time in front after Brett Emerton scored in first-half stoppage time. On both occasions, Liverpool had cause to reflect on poor defending.
Caught square when Paul Dickov threaded the ball to Emerton on the left, they failed to cover Bothroyd, who arrived to convert the Australian winger's cross.
Liverpool wound up in a horrible mess as Emerton put Blackburn ahead. Three attempts to halt the home side's progress into their penalty area failed before Sami Hyypia, having seen Barry Ferguson stumble and lose possession, meekly gave the ball straight to Emerton, whose low, angled shot from the left was perfectly placed to beat Chris Kirkland.
Now Hughes, perhaps, was daring to imagine Blackburn could prey on Liverpool's insecurity and gain the victory that would take them off the bottom of the table. But in the second half, as in the first, Liverpool were at their best at the start, Baros escaping from Craig Short in pursuit of substitute Luis Garcia's pass and having sufficient strength to hold off the defender's attempts to recover the ball before firing past Friedel from close range.
Both sides went close to gaining the decisive advantage and both goalkeepers performed heroically to ensure that neither did. Kirkland saved Liverpool twice in little more than a minute, pushing substitute Jon Stead's rising, goal-bound effort wide and then blocking a Dickov effort at point-blank range. Then Friedel did what was required, standing up well to beat away Riise's attempt to claim a late winner.
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