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Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Saturday, 6 December 2008

Blackburn 1-3 Liverpool

By David Ornstein

Steven Gerrard and Nabil El Zhar celebrate
Gerrard was among the scorers as the pressure increased on Paul Ince

Goals from Xabi Alonso, Yossi Benayoun and Steven Gerrard were enough to keep Liverpool top of the table and leave Blackburn without a league win in 10.

Stephen Warnock stopped Benayoun giving Liverpool the lead before Morten Gamst Pedersen fired against the crossbar.

After half-time Alonso sidefooted past Paul Robinson to open the scoring and Benayoun shot low to double the lead.

Roque Santa Cruz's header gave Rovers hope but Gerrard found an empty net after poor defending from the hosts.

Blackburn manager Paul Ince is likely to come under increased pressure after his side slumped to their fifth successive league defeat.

They sit second from bottom, just two points above West Brom, who have a game in hand.

Liverpool remain a point clear of Chelsea at the Premier League summit and boss Rafael Benitez will be delighted to return to winning ways following back-to-back goalless draws.

606: DEBATE
KitKuyt

The Merseyside outfit dominated the opening exchanges as Blackburn portrayed all the hallmarks of a team desperately lacking in confidence.

The hosts' ball-retention was poor and they seemed bereft of ideas in the attacking third.

Liverpool looked to release wingers Benayoun and Ryan Babel at every opportunity and on 18 minutes Steven Gerrard sent Benayoun racing through on goal, only for Warnock to intervene with an outstanding challenge.

But Liverpool, lining up in a 4-5-1 formation with Robbie Keane dropped to the bench and Dirk Kuyt the lone striker, did not create another clear-cut chance in a half notable for the visitors' shortage of inspiration and cutting edge.

Ince proud of players despite defeat

Blackburn grew in belief and were unfortunate not to take the lead when Pedersen's long-range strike on 27 minutes was expertly tipped onto the woodwork by Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Reina was again called upon to save from Pedersen before half-time, this time palming a free-kick to safety, but the game became scrappy after the break.

The passing was, at times, woeful but Liverpool showed marginally more quality going forward and Robinson was forced to react well to repel Alonso's drive after 57 minutes.

Moments later Liverpool should have broken the deadlock but when Robinson spilled Gerrard's fierce strike, Benayoun could not follow up and Ryan Nelson scrambled the ball clear.

Blackburn were rocking and it came as no surprise when Alonso sidefooted past Robinson from just inside the penalty area.

Controlled display satisfies Benitez

The Spaniard pounced with a calm finish after Andre Ooijer, under pressure from Kuyt, had failed to deal with Gerrard's cross from the right and his fellow centre-half Christopher Samba was nowhere to be seen.

The Merseysiders could well have lost their lead on 75 minutes as Roque Santa Cruz rose to meet Ooijer's precise centre from the right but could not find the target with his header.

That miss proved coast because at the other end Benayoun collected Kuyt's pass on the right, skipped past Warnock's terrible attempted-tackle and lashed a low drive across goal and into Robinson's bottom right-hand corner.

In stoppage time Robinson, faced with Nabil El Zhar, was forced to rush his clearance and it fell to Albert Riera, who squared to Gerrard and the captain rounded off Liverpool's win.


Blackburn manager Paul Ince:
"It was an exceptional performance. We have not got the three points but we have to take some positives from the game.

"It is always difficult against Liverpool but we matched them for long spells and that was pleasing.

"The scoreline was harsh and this might be the step we need to push on and get up the table."

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:
"We have shown we can manage the pressure. When you have a game like this, you know you might have problems.

"But we were more clinical than other days and that is important with the Christmas programme coming up.

"We are in a very good position so it is vital we play with confidence and that the players pass the ball well."


Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Andrews, Kerimoglu (Vogel 84), Pedersen (McCarthy 81), Roque Santa Cruz, Derbyshire (Treacy 90).
Subs Not Used: Brown, Villanueva, Simpson, Fowler.

Booked: Andrews, Warnock.

Goals: Roque Santa Cruz 86.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Insua, Benayoun (Riera 87), Mascherano (Leiva Lucas 83), Alonso, Babel (El Zhar 64), Gerrard, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Keane.

Booked: Babel, Arbeloa.

Goals: Alonso 69, Benayoun 79, Gerrard 90.

Att: 26,920

Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Liverpool's Pepe Reina with 7.27 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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see also
Ince boosted by Blackburn display
06 Dec 08 |  Blackburn
Live text - Premier League
06 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
06 Dec 08 |  Football
Blackburn Rovers Player Rater
19 Jan 07 |  Live Text


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