Liverpool reached the FA cup 5th round on Wednesday night after surviving a scare from Championship side Bolton on a night that Steven Gerrard made his 700th appearance for his boyhood club.
Having held Liverpool to a barren stalemate at Anfield to earn themselves a replay, Bolton welcomed the Reds at Macron Stadium on a night that there had to be a winner.
After another goalless first half, the Trotters took the lead in the 59th minute through an Eidur Gudjohnsen penalty which was awarded after Martin Skrtel was harshly adjudged to have tripped Zach Clough in the box.
However, two goals in the final three minutes of the game from Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho gave Liverpool a 2-1 win as they entered the FA Cup last 16 in successive seasons, the first time since 1995 and 1996 they have achieved that feat.
The Reds’ performance on the night had all the swagger they have been displaying in their last 20 games. They may not have killed the game early enough but class shone through the Liverpool team.
The likes of keeper Simon Mignolet and his protectors Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel continued to command the defence while Jordan Henderson, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge strengthened the team after their introduction later on.
However, it was the young lads, Raheem Sterling 20, Emre Can 21 and Philippe Coutinho 22 who rightfully grabbed the headlines. The three were at the center of a plethora of attack that the Bolton defence had to ward off as the Reds searched for the equalizer and eventually the winning goal.
Can was powerful when charging forward. His versatility saw Brendan Rodgers slot him first in the back three role alongside Skrtel and Sakho, then into a sweeper role before he was pushed forward into midfield where he took the game by the scruff of the neck. After thudding the bar with a fine left footed effort, the German U-21 international lofted an exquisite, precise pass to fellow youngster Sterling who kept his eye on the ball before guiding it through the legs of the hitherto unbeatable Andy Lonergan for Liverpool’s equalizer.
The German has an air of confidence growing into his game. He has a good shot on him as well as that eye for a Brazilian-esque pass if the one he fed Sterling is anything to go by. He can driver forward (Chelsea can attest to this) and his versatility makes him a shoe-in for any manager’s team when he is fit. His monstrous performance against Bolton was just another feather added to his cap and the £10 million Liverpool paid to Bayer Leverkusen for his signature looks like a huge bargain.
Coutinho was his usual nuisance, keeping the ball at his feet, turning defenders in and out, looking for that perfect pass and opening up little spaces. It has been some week for the Brazilian. After providing two assists in Liverpool’s 2-0 win against West Ham, the former Inter Milan man was tied to a new long-term contract that will keep him at Anfield until 2020. On evidence of yet another starring performance against Bolton where he netted a stunning winner, the Kop world won’t have any much complaint about the new contract.
And then there is Sterling. The more he touches the ball, the higher his stock rises. Alongside Coutinho, Sterling got kicked in every part of his body by the Bolton players. However, he picked himself up and asked for the ball again in his now familiar lone-strike role.
His goal, the equalizer, had sheer class written all over it. A perfectly lobbed pass from Can, and a faultless finish from a player who continues to outshine his age. That new contract should be signed NOW.
Liverpool’s next assignment is a Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday evening. In their last meeting, a 1-1 draw thanks to Phil Jagielka’s thunderous stoppage-time equalizer, Emre Can never featured, Coutinho entered the fray in the 60th minute while Sterling was still playing in 'the hole'.
The script will be different this time with all the three likely to start, likely to shine and likely to lead Liverpool to victory at the home of arguably the number one enemy.
And That's thesteifmastertake!!