Gerrard Cup dream still alive as Liverpool leave it late at Bolton
Two goals in the last five minutes earn Brendan Rodgers's side a dramatic victory after dubious Bolton penalty
Bolton Wanderers 1 Liverpool 2. Liverpool left it late but they managed to avoid the fate of so many of their Premier League peers with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Bolton in their fourth round FA Cup replay.
Ten days ago Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Southampton all tasted defeat in the cup, and Liverpool looked like joining the list of high profile casualties as the clock ticked into the last five minutes with the score at 1-0 to the Trotters.
Trailing to Eidur Gudjohnsen's controversial penalty on 59 minutes, Liverpool were struggling to exploit their numerical advantage in the final quarter after Neil Danns had been dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Gudjohnsen should have put the game beyond doubt but he directed his point-blank header straight at Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet, and when Reds' manager brought on Daniel Sturridge the visitors began to play with more snap. Or was it just that Bolton, wonderfully committed throughout, finally began to feel the effects of their efforts.
Jordan Henderson and Emre Can had both rattled the woodwork for Liverpool and the inevitable equaliser finally came on 86 minutes, Raheem Sterling firing past Andy Lonergan. Four minutes later, as the players and spectators braced themselves for extra-time, Philippe Coutinho produced a pearler, curling the ball into the top corner to break Bolton hearts.
Devastation for the underdogs but delight for Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, making his 700th appearance for the club. With the Reds now facing a fifth round tie at Crystal Palace on Saturday week, he remains on course for a spectacular swansong for the club he's served so faithfully – appearing at Wembley on 30 May, the date of his 35th birthday, before heading off to the States to finish his career with LA Galaxy.
The defeat left a bitter taste in Neil Lennon's mouth, the Bolton manager describing referee Roger East as "rubbish", comments which he may have to explain before an FA disciplinary panel at a later date. "I thought he spoiled what was a very good game," said Lennon, referring to the red card for Danns. The Bolton boss also considered his side's penalty a dubious call, and he wasn't alone in that regard with television replays suggesting there was minimal contact between Martin Skrtel and Bolton's Zach Clough.
Brendan Rodgers described the result as "justice", and singled out Coutinho for praise. The Brazilian has just signed a new contract with Liverpool and his manager predicts that the 22-year-old has a glittering future, even daring to compare him to one of Liverpool's former South American stars.
"You would just pay money to watch that kid," declared Rodgers. "He will become world class in the next couple of years. Luis Suarez was at a level then he played in this team and grew and grew with the model and went into the world-class bracket and I can see Coutinho falling in the same sort of way."