Press Association match report

Two goals in three blistering minutes lifted the gloom that has descended over Anfield as Liverpool avoided their fourth successive home defeat.

Paul Ince's stunner from 30 yards and Michael Owen's instinctive piece of quality finishing from six ensured that rock bottom Blackburn have now won just once in their last nine games.

It is hard to believe, though, that Liverpool have done enough to convince anyone that they have turned the corner.

It may have been their first clean sheet in 10 matches, but the real trouble with Liverpool is you do not know from one game to the next what you are going to get. Three home defeats were followed by a thriller at Aston Villa and a 4-2 victory. The shredding in Spain by Celta Vigo ensued, and now this.

Houllier talks of the revival at Anfield being a long process to put the Merseysiders right, and two league wins in succession will give him a platform to build on.

Blackburn emerged from their own week of turmoil to field virtually a reserve side and give everything for the shirt, but it was not enough once two goals had gone in.

Tony Parkes, caretaker boss for the fifth time in his long and loyal spell at Blackburn after the axing a week ago of Roy Hodgson, had numerous pre-match problems.

Eight first-teamers were out through injury or suspension, including Tim Flowers, Tim Sherwood and Chris Sutton.

Liverpool had Paul Ince back as skipper, and that added a touch of steel to their midfield, and more unexpectedly, a stunning goal he will remember for many years to come.

The Reds started well, but that confidence was soon to be replaced by the uncertainty that has plagued them all season at the first hint of trouble.

Patrik Berger, who had one of those infuriating games that lacked any hint of consistency, blasted in one volley from close range after John Filan had flapped at an Owen cross.

The 'keeper made amends with a brave block to keep out the Czech's effort. Two minutes later Berger laid the ball off 20 yards out for Jamie Redknapp to drive inches over the bar.

But Blackburn soon showed they wanted to test a Liverpool rearguard that has become a public bar joke, and could have had two in quick succession.

Steve Staunton was booked for pulling back Kevin Gallacher by his shirt a yard outside the box, and from the free-kick, Gallacher's effort deflected wickedly wide of the far post.

After 10 minutes Damien Johnson's corner was laid back by Gallacher for Nathan Blake to volley over from 12 yards.

A minute later Damien Duff's left-wing cross sailed into the box for Johnson to head inches over the angle. Liverpool had been largely spectating throughout this Rovers' burst of activity.

Blackburn continued to compete with fire that belied their position in the Premiership, and Liverpool only managed a header from Robbie Fowler that Filan held from a Vegard Heggem cross before Ince's marvellous goal.

It came on 30 minutes when the Anfield skipper had the ball touched to him by Fowler some 30 yards out. Ince took a stride forward and lashed a searing drive in off the left post for his fourth goal of the season.

Three minutes later Liverpool were two ahead, with Ince involved again. His cross from the right found Fowler unmarked. The striker half-killed the ball and watched as Owen blasted in a shot that Filan blocked, only for the 19-year-old to react instantly to bury the chance from inside the six-yard box.

Nobody at half-time dared to suggest that Liverpool had sealed the three points.

But Owen's pace was a constant worry for Blackburn and several times in the second half he threatened to expose them. His best chance came when Fowler put him away, but Owen screwed his shot across goal and well wide.

Then he almost embarrassed Christian Dailly, whose back pass was short of Filan, the 'keeper having to hack clear desperately.

Owen then fired in an 18-yarder that was so fierce, it bounced back off Filan's chest with the 'keeper knowing little about it.

Fowler wanted to get in on the act, and lashed in an edge-of-the-box volley that Filan pulled down from under the bar after 65 minutes.

Minutes later after Heggem had been pulled back just outside the box, Redknapp's free-kick was nodded back for Berger to crash over the bar.

But Blackburn were not out of it, and Blake - who had had a quiet game - took a pass from Damien Duff and spun to drive a low shot wide of the far post.

The disturbing fact now was that Liverpool lacked the mental strength to go on and win the game with a flourish.

Patches of fine inter-passing were lost in a tangle of weakened confidence and the ability to give the ball away at any given moment.

Blackburn lacked neither character nor effort, but the guile to open up a defence that has been slaughtered by every critic was not available.


Liverpool: James, Staunton (Kvarme 75), Babb, Fowler, Owen, Redknapp, Heggem (Gerrard 90), Berger, Ince, Bjornebye, Carragher.
Subs Not Used: Friedel, Murphy, Thompson.
Booked: Staunton.
Goals: Ince 30, Owen 33.

Blackburn: Filan, Kenna, Davidson, Henchoz, Gallacher, Duff, Blake, Marcolin, Johnson (Davies 87), Dailly, Dunn.
Subs Not Used: Broomes, Croft, Fettis, Taylor.
Booked: Davidson.

Copyright - Press Association

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