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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 December 2006, 16:54 GMT
Blackburn 1-0 Liverpool
Blackburn's Robbie Savage and Liverpool's Craig Bellamy
Bellamy endured an unhappy return to Ewood Park
Blackburn eased their relegation fears with a gritty victory over Liverpool.

Liverpool paid the price for some lackadaisical finishing in the first half when Benni McCarthy stroked the ball in from close range on 49 minutes.

Brad Friedel had been key to Blackburn going in at half-time on level terms and the Rovers goalkeeper continued to defy Liverpool after McCarthy's goal.

Friedel saved well from Dirk Kuyt, though he was rescued by the woodwork, when Xabi Alonso's shot hit the post.

Liverpool will wonder how they went away with nothing from this game, but that they did had much to do with Friedel's heroics.

The American enjoyed a miserable spell at Anfield between 1997 and 2000, but he has flourished since joining Rovers.

If Blackburn rode their luck at times, there was nothing fortunate about their second-half display as they unsettled Liverpool out of their passing game.

Liverpool's loss of composure was illustrated when Alonso was rightly booked for a horrible tackle on McCarthy after the South African had skipped past a couple of tackles.


Liverpool's defeat marked an unhappy return for former Blackburn striker Craig Bellamy, who was making his first return to Ewood Park since his summer move to Anfield.

Bellamy's movement was as ever exemplary and although he was eventually replaced by Luis Garcia he was one of more Liverpool's impressive performers.

Bellamy came close to giving Liverpool the lead when he got on the end of a flowing move involving Alonso and John Arne Riise, but the Liverpool striker's shot went the wrong side of the post.

Bellamy has forged an effective partnership with Kuyt in recent games, but with the Dutchman rested, Crouch was chosen to link up with the Welshman.

Crouch missed two headed chances, the first time putting the ball straight at Friedel, though for the second one the Liverpool striker forced the Blackburn keeper into a good save.

Having negotiated the opening 45 minutes, Pedersen and McCarthy combined to put Blackburn ahead just after the break.

The move was started by a delightful piece of skill from Tugay, whose stepover took him away from Steven Gerrard, before the Turkish midfielder released Pedersen, whose inviting cross was sidefooted in by McCarthy.

Benitez did not wait long to replace Crouch with Kuyt and the former Feyenoord striker's arrival reinvigorated the Liverpool attack.

The Dutchman forced a reaction save from Friedel, who was then beaten by a swerving shot from Alonso, which thudded against the post.

Alonso was soon turning away in frustration for a second time when another shot was brilliantly pushed away by the former Liverpool goalkeeper.

  • Blackburn manager Mark Hughes:

  • "Brad Friedel was magnificent - he made some crucial saves, commanded the box and was an inspiration to everyone in front of him.

    "I think everybody grew because of his presence on the field.

    "I thought everybody was magnificent and there were some huge performances. It was a huge win for us and important we got back to winning ways."

  • Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:

  • "When you are in front of goal and you have three clear headers it is not lack of confidence

    "I think it is good luck that maybe the keeper was in the right position.

    "We had many attempts and we couldn't score. You must be disappointed but when you have created so many chances you can't do anything else."

    Blackburn: Friedel, Emerton, Todd, Ooijer, Neill, Bentley (Mokoena 87), Savage, Kerimoglu (Henchoz 90), Pedersen, Nonda (Derbyshire 78), McCarthy.
    Subs Not Used: Brown, Gray.

    Booked: Nonda, Pedersen, Emerton.

    Goals: McCarthy 49.

    Liverpool: Reina, Hyypia, Carragher, Agger, Finnan, Gerrard, Alonso, Riise, Bellamy (Luis Garcia 76), Crouch (Kuyt 56), Gonzalez (Aurelio 64).
    Subs Not Used: Dudek, Pennant.

    Booked: Agger, Alonso.

    Att: 29,342

    Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).


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