LIVERPOOL, January 24 – Bolton Wanderers goalkeeper Adam Bogdan led a spirited defensive display as the Championship side earned themselves a fourth round FA Cup replay following a goalless draw at Liverpool on Saturday.
The result left Reds manager Brendan Rodgers with the unwanted headache of another fixture, albeit it is only a short journey from Liverpool to fellow north-west side Bolton’s Macron Arena home ground.
But on a day when the Premier League’s top three teams — Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton — were all knocked out of the FA Cup, together with Tottenham and Swansea, Rodgers may well be pleased that Liverpool were still in the draw for the last 16.
Now former Liverpool turned Bolton striker Emile Heskey is set to face his old side again.
The 37-year-old, who scored 60 goals in 223 appearances for the Reds from 2000 to 2004, barely had a chance on Saturday before he left to a standing ovation from both sets of supporters shortly before the hour mark.
Liverpool were without captain Steven Gerrard, who was rested ahead of the second leg of their League Cup semi-final meeting with Chelsea on Tuesday, and the Merseysiders missed his inspirational presence against their second-tier opponents.
Midfielder Joe Allen and defender Glen Johnson were included for the first time since Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat at Manchester United in mid-December having recovered from knee and groin injuries respectively.
Bolton manager Neil Lennon selected his strongest side as Heskey partnered fellow veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen in attack.
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, captain in Gerrard’s absence, forced Bogdan to scramble across goal to push a dipping half-volley from distance past the post.
Henderson continued to dictate play confidently in midfield and he threaded a superb ball for the lively Raheem Sterling to run on to before the half hour, but the forward’s touch let him down at the crucial moment.
– Set-piece threat –
Sterling’s pace was Liverpool’s most potent threat against the Trotters and moments later, released by Philippe Coutinho, he cut inside on to his right foot only for Matt Mills to block his shot.
Set-pieces looked Bolton’s best source of a goal and Dean Moxey caused a few hearts to flutter at the Kop End when his low effort flashed past the post after the ball dropped to him following a free-kick.
Unable to penetrate an organised Bolton defence, Liverpool tried their luck from long range before half-time and Bogdan gathered well-struck efforts from Johnson and Adam Lallana.
Liverpool unlocked the Bolton defence 10 minutes after the interval when Coutinho’s clever pass slipped in Sterling, however Bogdan rushed off his line to just beat the England forward to the ball.
The hosts increased their intensity and a curling effort from the impressive Coutinho brought a fine diving save from Hungary international Bodgan, with Javier Manquillo unable to profit from the rebound.
Bolton were not without the occasional chance of their own, though, and Gudjohnsen should have done better when he lifted a shot over the bar from Josh Vela’s cutback.
Rodgers introduced Fabio Borini in a bid to give his side more cutting edge in the final third, and the Italy striker almost broke the deadlock with a curling effort which Bogdan tipped past the post.
Liverpool appealed for a penalty with nine minutes remaining when Bolton substitute Jay Spearing, another former Liverpool player, bundled over Henderson but referee Kevin Friend waved away the appeals.
There was still time for Emre Can to head wide from a good position and Lucas Leiva to force a fine save from Bogdan.