Lacklustre Liverpool fire blanks without Torres

Blackburn Rovers 0 Liverpool 0
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The Independent Online

Sam Allardyce's return to work carried a reminder of how badly one man's absence can affect a club.

Blackburn have managed tolerably well without their manager during his enforced break for heart surgery. Not so Liverpool without Fernando Torres, who was missing for his fifth game in a row. Liverpool missed him in two different ways. They failed to create any chances in a dismal first half and then failed to put any away in the second.

After 70 minutes that underlined how ordinary Liverpool, without Torres, can look against a determined defence, the opportunity that should have won the match fell to the substitute, David Ngog.

Glen Johnson's low cross gave him what looked like an open goal, but a late bobble complicated the task and his effort hit the bar.

Not that Liverpool deserved what would have been only their fourth win in 13 games, as they were short of both flair and thrust. Dirk Kuyt, labouring on his own up front, did so with predictable willingness, but, if he was sharp enough in the box, that is where he would be playing on a regular basis.

As for the midfield, Liverpool fans are becoming impatient to the point of revolt at still not getting the chance to see whether Alberto Aquilani really is the successor to Xabi Alonso as a much-needed creative influence.

He was an unused substitute with Rafael Benitez arguing that it was likely to be too physical a match for him to be eased in comfortably. The meaningless game against Fiorentina on Wednesday is now earmarked for him to show what he has to offer.

Of the two managers, Allardyce, back after a four-match break, was entitled to be the happier, especially after his side's successful Carling Cup exertions against Chelsea in midweek.

"Considering our lads had played two hours and then penalties in that match and Liverpool didn't have a midweek game, I felt it was great testimony to our fitness," he said. "We restricted Liverpool to just that chance against the bar."

Rovers had chances for Franco Di Santo, Benni McCarthy and Nikola Kalinic to win the game. At the end of a week, however, in which Benitez hinted strongly that Torres might miss the World Cup, two players who will almost certainly be in South Africa were Blackburn's best.

New Zealand's Ryan Nelsen might not be the most physically imposing of centre-backs, but he was a calming presence in a solid back four, while the Australian, Vince Grella, not only broke up many of Liverpool's more promising attacks but also supplied some of the game's more perceptive passes.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; Emerton, Nzonzi, Grella, Diouf (Hoilett 71); McCarthy (Kalinic 76), Di Santo (Andrews 84). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Salgado, Pedersen, Roberts

Liverpool (4-5-1): Reina; Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Insua; Benayoun (El Zhar 71), Lucas, Mascherano, Gerrard, Riera (Ngog 51); Kuyt. Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Dossena, Aquilani

Referee: M Atkinson (Yorkshire).

Booked: Blackburn Diouf.

Man of the Match: Grella.

Attendance: 29,660.

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