Bolton ended Liverpool's run of Premiership victories at 10, but were denied a win in a controversial match at the Reebok Stadium yesterday by Rafael Benitez's Spanish reinforcements.
The Wanderers were winning, thanks to a goal from Anfield's unlamented old boy El Hadji Diouf, when the substitutes combined for a goal of real quality to salvage a point from a match that Liverpool had spent much of the afternoon chasing. Xabi Alonso flighted a diagonal ball in, and Luis Garcia killed it on his chest before firing a left-footed shot just inside Jussi Jaaskelainen's post.
"We knew we had tired players, and tried to use fresh legs to win the game,'' said Benitez. It was good enough to grab a draw, but not good enough to equal the 1982 Liverpool side's record of 11 straight wins in the old First Division.
Bolton did not start like a side with any of the self-doubt that might be expected to creep in after a run of just one win in their last six games. Diouf, predictably booed by the Liverpool fans whenever he touched the ball, got a cross on to Kevin Davies' head for an early effort that Pepe Reina saved comfortably enough. He was to look a lot less comfortable after nine minutes, when the sort of defensive gaffe Liverpool have all but eliminated this season put Bolton ahead.
Stelios Giannakopoulos won a free-kick wide on the left for Steve Finnan's push but put over the free-kick himself. It should have been routine for a goalkeeper in Reina's recent form, but he unaccountably fumbled it, and Sami Hyypia's intervention merely made matters worse. The ball bounced free and the central defender Radhi Jaidi had the simple task of nodding it into a vacant net.
A reshuffled Liverpool looked disjointed for much of the first half, although Steven Gerrard was always capable of sparking them into life.
He came infield from his beat on the right of midfield to fire in a shot that was blocked. A minute later, Dietmar Hamman's shot from a similar spot again forced Jaaskelainen to save.
Bolton were still playing with confidence, with Jaidi having another effort blocked and Diouf proving a thorough pest to his old club. His provocative and unsettling influence was best summed up by the way that Jamie Carragher became one of the five players booked when he complained loud and long at what he clearly regarded as Diouf's play-acting.
Without actually naming Diouf, Benitez went a long way towards supporting Carragher's contention after the match. "It's very difficult when you see players diving all the time,'' he said of Diouf and his reputation. "Everyone knows in England, but maybe someone doesn't know.''
It was Gerrard, himself involved in an incident that left Kevin Nolan with stud marks on his chest, who was giving Liverpool most of their drive, putting a shot wide from Peter Crouch's head down. Soon after, in the 65th minute, he was responsible for Liverpool's equaliser, charging into the area in pursuit of a well-judged pass from Harry Kewell and being tripped by Joey O'Brien. The captain took the penalty himself and tucked it firmly into the corner.
Bolton's response to that setback was defiant. Nolan volleyed a beautifully controlled pass into the path of Davies and he crossed with the outside of his right boot for Diouf to bundle the ball past Reina.
Given their ongoing grievances with him and his approach to the game, that was the last player Liverpool would have chosen to lose it to. Garcia's strike spared them that, and Djibril Cissé came desperately close to winning it with a header past the post, but Benitez finished "very disappointed'' with the end of their run rather than grateful for the point.
Sam Allardyce was equally dissatisfied. Apart from his belief that Gerrard and - for another alleged case of stamping - Momo Sissoko should have been sent off, he was adamant that two other major decisions had been called wrongly by Mark Clattenburg.
"Our bunch of cast-offs has competed pound for pound with the European champions,'' he said. "But I'm not pleased with the result, because the referee has influenced it.''
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Jaidi, N'Gotty, Gardner; Nolan, Faye, Speed (Fadiga, 90); Diouf (Ben Haim, 82), Davies, Giannakopoulos. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Borgetti, Vaz Te.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Traoré; Gerrard, Sissoko (Cissé, 82), Hamann (Alonso, 64), Kewell; Sinama-Pongolle (Garcia, 61), Crouch. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Riise.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).Reuse content