Liverpool players close ranks with Hodgson as Gerrard gamble pays off

Liverpool 2 Bolton 1

Anfield

An Eighties legend gazes down at the Bill Shankly statue on the Anfield Road. Not Kenny Dalglish, but Phil Collins, whose vast image, plastered on the side wall of the Albert pub, promotes the new album, Going Back. That might be precisely the journey Liverpool decide to take, as their American owners come around to the idea of appointing a caretaker manager. Dalglish's willingness to resume temporarily the dugout seat which was his for six years from 1985 was by no means certain last night, but he is one of very few possible candidates.

There was nothing in Roy Hodgson's description of his conversation with the club's proprietors John W Henry and Tom Werner to suggest that he feels their gushing confidence, with the weekend resignation of Hoffenheim's thoughtful young manager Ralf Rangnick, considered by some a "German Arsène Wenger" adding another potential candidate. In these circumstances let none of the 63-year-old's many detractors on Merseyside say he lacked bravery on Saturday.

Though another home defeat to follow the one inflicted by Wolves last Wednesday would have been enough to sign off Hodgson's Anfield career on the six-month anniversary of its beginning, the manager concluded, for the greater good, that Steven Gerrard should begin on the bench. "Steven was in agreement with me that starting on the bench might be the best thing as he was very, very tired after the game on Wednesday," Hodgson explained. "If he'd said to me, 'No, no, I really want to play from the start', then I would have left one of the others out. But he was cramped up in all of his muscles [after Wednesday] and, of course, we are still a bit concerned about that hamstring injury he picked up with England."

If Hodgson survives the season, let alone the year, then he may reflect on the way the fates moved in mysterious ways to preserve him.

When Raul Meireles sustained an ankle injury in the 21st minute, Hodgson was forced to play Gerrard anyway. "I actually said to him as he was coming on, 'Could you not stay off a wee bit longer'," the Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, revealed later – and Gerrard delivered almost as completely to Liverpool's victory as he did to November's 3-1 Europa League win over Napoli, when, with the new owners in attendance, Liverpool also trooped in a goal behind at the break.

Gerrard's interaction with Fernando Torres also bore eloquent testimony to those who feel that Hodgson's adherence to a 4-4-2 system is depriving the club's two prime forces of that synergy which has been at its best when the captain plays behind the striker. It wasn't just the giddyingly fine Torres equaliser after 49 minutes which Gerrard's clipped half-volley pass supplied in the midst of a four-touch build-up. "I have got to say there aren't many players in football who could have played that pass and the understanding Gerrard and Torres have is there for all to see," Coyle enthused.

There was also the vast, arced ball which Torres took and smashed perhaps a yard wide three minutes later, or the Gerrard cross from the right which Torres volleyed wide 13 minutes from time. The new system has made moments of such majesty scarce.

Hodgson's grip on his job is rendered even more fragile by the lack of players to deliver a scintilla of what these two can. Only once this season have Liverpool strung Premier League wins together and the expectation now has to be that a poor performance will follow at Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday. Hodgson certainly won't be getting too carried away about Joe Cole despite his goal – his first in the Premier League football since the remarkably similar finish on the white paint line at Old Trafford in April which was decisive to Chelsea's title.

But Cole's warmth for Hodgson bore out the embraces which so many of the players offered him as they processed from the pitch. Pepe Reina knocked Hodgson off his feet; Lucas Leiva stopped his run from the field to embrace him. "We are all right behind the manager, he's a gentleman and we want to do well for him," Cole said.

The general Anfield chill is more impermeable – the 35,400 attendance was the lowest since Portsmouth's visit in 2004 – though Hodgson does seem to have learnt a lesson about his public discussion of "the famous Anfield support", as he rather icily described the phenomenon he has not experienced, on Wednesday.

It is that such a pronouncement will be hyperanalysed at Liverpool, while at one of his many lesser clubs it would off pass virtually without comment. Hodgson's observations on Saturday night were laden with deferential references to the Kop. "I hope that the fans and supporters understand that," he added hurriedly, when discussing the need to rest players as fixtures arrive in abundance.

Those kind of semantics tend to be less scrutinised than the headline comment but the drive by manager and players to make Anfield a positive place renders the potential turmoil of dismissing Hodgson for a temporary successor look like folly. Numbers, like manager's quotes, can add up to whatever you want them to be. Liverpool's worst first half to a season since 1953 this might be but they will climb to sixth in the table if they win their two games in hand. This is a club in transition, not in crisis. There should be no going back.

Scorers: Liverpool Torres 49, Cole 90; Bolton K Davies 43.

Subs: Liverpool Gerrard (Meireles, 21), Cole (Ngog, 82), Kyrgiakos (Agger, 89). Bolton Klasnic (Moreno, 69), Petrov (Taylor, 82)

Booked: Liverpool Aurelio, Lucas; Bolton Alonso, Taylor.

Man of the match Gerrard. Match rating 6/10.

Possession Liverpool 58% Bolton 42%.

Shots on target Liverpool 8 Bolton 4.

Referee K Friend (Leicestershire). Att 35,400.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness