Keane begins to win over Kop with double

Liverpool 3 Bolton 0

What price Robbie Keane now for the Anfield exit in the new year sales? Inspired and typically impish, the Republic of Ireland skipper yesterday plundered two of the goals with which Liverpool cemented their hold on the Premier League top spot.

Here was a contribution to suggest that stories about the player's January departure might be exaggerated, or overtaken by events. The £20.3m summer signing's personal landscape is rapidly changing. He has now scored three times in two games and the crowd's prolonged acclaim for his highly accomplished finishes in the space of five minutes soon after half-time were borne out of more than just relief that his side had emerged from their debilitating three successive home league draws.

The Kop are waiting to take him to their hearts and more of this will not do any harm. Seven goals in 25 appearances is still not a haul to die for but, compared with the four in 23 he had managed a week ago, it is positively bountiful. We will not have to wait long to discover whether his impetus can be carried over, or is allowed to.

Liverpool travel north and kick off at the inconveniently early hour of noon against Newcastle United tomorrow – and were delighted to wrap this game up early enough for Steven Gerrard, Albert Riera and Dirk Kuyt to be given time off towards the end.

As if pole position at the half-way stage is not exciting enough for a club obsessed with winning their first Premier League title, there is also the prospect of Fernando Torres' impending return. Despite the pre-match conjecture, the only highly influential Spaniard Anfield was able to welcome back yesterday was Rafa Benitez. His continued recovery from kidney stones meant the manager stayed throughout in the directors' box in note-taking mode, leaving Sammy Lee to direct operations against his former club – and to later deny Keane had ever been in crisis. "We don't feel Robbie has ever been out of form," the assistant manager said. "He has been working very hard and we know the quality he has. That's why we brought him here. We have had no doubts whatsoever in his ability and work-rate. What he adds to the club is immense.

"I don't think he was ever lacking in confidence. People may make assertions but we know what he is adding." If doctor's orders saw to it that Benitez did not make it down to pitch-side, manager's orders dictated that Liverpool went for the rarity of a 4-4-2 formation, with Gerrard used as play-maker rather than in the advanced role from which he has scored many of his 11 goals this season.

There was no disguising Bolton Wanderers' suffocating tactics and, although Kevin Nolan almost picked out the unmarked Ricardo Gardner from a cross in only the second minute, it was another 82 before the visitors mustered a goal attempt.

It was all about patience for a Liverpool side displaced for two hours as leaders by Chelsea and seldom can they have been granted such a monopoly on possession and territory than they were by these opponents who added next to nothing to the spectacle. Keane might have struck much earlier had he not been wrong-footed when trying to divert Riera's shot on target following Gerrard's corner, and Kuyt should have done better than head over when unmarked from Jamie Carragher's diagonal centre.

In between, Jussi Jaaskelainen had fortune on his side when pushing Emiliano Insua's volley from another Gerrard corner back through the ruck of players from which it had sped.

Bolton's luck didn't hold, Jlloyd Samuel and Johan Elmander losing Riera at the near post and seeing the Spanish winger poke home left-footed from Gerrard's 26th-minute corner. "To concede a goal direct from a corner, other than to a header, is not acceptable at any level," said Bolton's manager Gary Megson.

The killer blows were delicious. Gerrard's threaded pass released Keane to crash home the second with his left foot and a move started by Pepe Reina's under-arm throw, and continued superbly by the highly impressive duo of Xabi Alonso and Yossi Benayoun, ended with an emphatic shot swept in on the run.

There should have been more but Liverpool were content enough as they ensured they go through 2008 without a single home league defeat and within a victory of their best points haul in a calendar year since last winning the league 19 years ago. One question burns more than any other, though. Can they do what they have done on 10 of the previous 15 occasions on which they have led the table at Christmas and go on to win the league?

Goals: Riera (26) 1-0; Keane (53) 2-0; Keane (57) 3-0

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Insua; Benayoun, Gerrard (Lucas, 73), Alonso, Riera (El Zhar, 69); Kuyt (Ngog, 77); Keane. Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Babel, Mascherano, Darby.

Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Andy O'Brien, Samuel (Davies, HT); Taylor (Riga, 66), Muamba, Nolan, McCann, Gardner; Elmander (Smolarek, 66). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Shittu, Basham, Obadeyi.

Booked: Liverpool Agger. Bolton Nolan, Steinsson, McCann.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Man of the match: Keane.

Attendance: 43,548.


Liverpool's 3-0 win over Bolton means Barnsley are the only team to have beaten them at home in 2008 and sees the Reds reclaim their Christmas No 1 spot, a position from which they last won the title in the 1987-88 season.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine