Another defeat but, for the moment, Paul Ince remains Blackburn's manager. Despite suggestions that a fifth consecutive reverse would spell the end of the road for Ince at Ewood Park, chairman John Williams and his fellow directors appear still to be behind the man they appointed only five months ago.
Ince himself, however, is attaching significance to the number five, which he hinted is the span of matches he believes he has in which to turn Blackburn's season around after watching his team remain next to bottom of the table despite producing a commendable effort against the leaders.
Looking ahead at a fixture programme that shows Wigan, Stoke, Sunderland, Manchester City and Fulham as their next five opponents, Ince referred specifically to "five Cup finals" as the measure of whether Blackburn have what it takes to banish their relegation worries.
"It was a harsh result because we matched the league leaders for almost 70 minutes but I'm very encouraged by the performance," he said, before insisting that the fans who had called for his head after the midweek Carling Cup defeat at Manchester United had now seen proof that the dressing room was on his side. "There is no question of the players not wanting to play for the manager – you could see that in the performance today," he said. "We haven't won but it puts a smile on my face to know that the players did it for me. Now we have five Cup finals but if we reproduce that level of performance I've no doubt we can turn it around."
Nonetheless, after 10 matches since Blackburn last won, Ince will be aware that the next two matches will turn up the pressure on him again if they do not go in his favour. His complaint that young managers such as himself need time to develop their skills is perfectly legitimate, but he knows too that the financial implications of relegation mean that Blackburn need to look carefully at their position.
Ince could argue that a little luck in his side's favour yesterday might have been significant. At 0-0, Pepe Reina had to produce an excellent save to push Morten Gamst Pedersen's shot on to the bar, while Roque Santa Cruz squandered a free header early in the second, still with the contest goalless. But after Xabi Alonso had put Liverpool ahead, Yossi Benayoun added a second and Steven Gerrard a third.
Liverpool's statistics are impressive – one defeat in 16 Premier League matches – but they still do not look quite like a team with serious title credentials. Moreover, deep worries remain over their ability to turn possession into goals, with Robbie Keane dropped to the bench even in the absence of the injured Fernando Torres.
With 22 minutes left, however, Blackburn's wobbly resistance, increasingly held in place by Paul Robinson in goal, at last cracked. After Gerrard's low cross from the right sought out Dirk Kuyt, the ball ran to Alonso, who saw a gap to the left of Robinson and found it, albeit with the help of a deflection, from 12 yards.
And as a little of the tension at last lifted for Liverpool, so Blackburn's spirits tended to drop. After 78 minutes, Kuyt's pass to the right flank found Benayoun, who went past Liverpool old boy Stephen Warnock on a run into the penalty area and, despite a tight angle, finished with a shot good enough to fly past Robinson into the far corner.
A goal for Santa Cruz – his first for a month – gave Blackburn a boost after some lax Liverpool marking allowed him to head home Keith Andrews's cross but by then the outcome was effectively decided and a stoppage-time goal for Gerrard, slotting into an empty net after Robinson rushed from his area to challenge substitute Nabil El Zhar, only confirmed it.
Referee: A Marriner
Man of the match: Alonso
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content