Houllier gambles backfires
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
The desperate need to salvage Champions League
qualification from a distressing Barclaycard Premiership
campaign forced Gerard Houllier to dig deep into
Anfield's reserves, only to discover they were not good
The fumbling exit from the Carling Cup at home to an
emerging, impressive Bolton revealed more than just a
shoddy performance that rightly enraged the Liverpool
boss, not known for public castigation of his players.
It showed that Saturday's Premiership crunch match at
Newcastle is so important to him.
It transcended the defence of a trophy that Liverpool
used last season to salvage some pride from.
Houllier accused his players of "letting the club and
the fans down" in the 3-2 defeat.
Damning words that will haunt more than a few when their
futures are eventually discussed.
Houllier, already without Michael Owen, Milan Baros,
Jamie Carragher, Steve Finnan and Stephane Henchoz,
found himself forced to gamble with his side for the
fourth round tie they lost to a last minute penalty.
So vital are league points now that Houllier - in a
demanding run of five games in 15 days - opted to rest
Sami Hyypia and Dietmar Hamann and leave Steven Gerrard,
Harry Kewell, Chris Kirkland and Florent Sinama-Pongolle
on the bench.
That, effectively, is a complete first team on the
sidelines. And those decisions, made with the
Premiership rightly as the priority, left Houllier with
only the bit-part players. And they are not good enough.
Against Bolton, Liverpool had too many of the
most-criticised Houllier signings all in the mix
together, and they were found wanting.
The Liverpool boss raged afterwards, and will criticise
his players in private before the squad set off for
their Saturday showdown with the Magpies.
Houllier even used 20-year-old reserve Jon Otsemobor,
the one success of the night with a determined,
eye-catching display at right-back, as a stick to beat
his seniors with.
Houllier said: "Jon did okay. He worked hard. He has not
played much for us but he performed particularly well.
"I wish some of the other players had performed as well
as he did."
Those words will not go unnoticed by the likes of Salif
Diao - responsible for conceding a free-kick and the
late penalty that cost Liverpool two goals - Jerzy
Dudek, Djimi Traore, Igor Biscan and El-Hadji Diouf.
Dudek could be blamed for two goals and Traore one.
Diouf spluttered and finally disappeared on the hour.
Houllier is not under any real pressure for losing a cup
tie in a competition that is way down the list of
priorities for most Premiership clubs, but he will be if
they lose at Newcastle.
Because he is in such a position now that
match-to-match, Liverpool's season is on a knife edge.
Win and everything is fine, lose and it is a crisis.
Houllier this week defended David Moyes across Stanley
Park at Everton.
Houllier said: "One day you are a hero, the next a
He could just as easily have applied those words to his
Only on the night he decided to dump goalkeeper Sander
Westerveld, when Bolton were also the opponents, has
Houllier looked and sounded so angry in public. You now
have to fear the same fate for Dudek.
After last night's defeat Houllier raged: "We have to
blame ourselves because it was a poor performance and I
am angry with some of the players.
"I did not like the passing or the absence of efficiency
of some players.
"We have got a squad, we have other players. Several who
came in did not play at the weekend.
"Other teams have been able to field different players
and still go through."
There are, of course, deeper problems. Whereas Arsenal
can find home-grown youth to field on such occasions,
Their under-19s have been beaten in the FA Youth Cup by
Gillingham and have won just two of 13 games this
The reserves are struggling with six wins from 13, and
there seem very few youngsters knocking on the door for
Richie Partridge, the most promising of those, is in
America having knee surgery, while John Welsh is with
the England Under-20s. Both would have played against
Bolton along with Otsemobor.
So Houllier turned to his senior fringe players, and it
did not work.
"very, very angry"
A fuming Gerard Houllier lashed his Liverpool team
after they were dumped out of the Carling Cup by Bolton.
The holders went down 3-2 at Anfield, twice fighting
back from behind only to concede a late penalty and see
Sam Allardyce's side claim their place in the
But boss Houllier did not spare his men after they had
lost their hold on the trophy they won against
Manchester United in Cardiff last season.
Houllier said: "I am very, very angry. And they will
certainly know all about it when they report for
Houllier refused to single out players for his wrath in
public, but pointedly said: "There were players who had
come into the side who were fresh, but they did not take
their opportunity and were below par.
"We just did not deserve to go through after a
performance like that. I was extremely disappointed in
my players, we do not have any excuses because we missed
too many chances and made too many mistakes.
"Credit to them, they took their chances but we have to
blame ourselves after that and make sure we redeem
ourselves against Newcastle on Saturday.''
For Bolton boss Allardyce it was a tremendous victory
and with a home quarter-final draw next against
Southampton, they can start dreaming of a final date in
Allardyce, tough, was not too keen to start thinking
He said: "Let's not start all that talk, there is a long
way to go yet.
"But this is a marvellous result for the club. We have
beaten the holders on their own pitch. We hung on when
they had so much pressure, and we fought our way through
"Their pressure was severe and we had some luck, but we
defended superbly. Things went on there that would not
have happened in the Premier League, but neither side
wanted extra time and we were both just going for it at
"I made seven changes, but it was still a very
experienced side and they proved me right. Sometimes I
have had plenty of stick for fielding a weakened side in
this competition, but this time it worked for me.''
fall to Djorkaeff penalty
Youri Djorkaeff's stoppage-time penalty sent
Liverpool crashing out of the Carling Cup as they lost
3-2 to Bolton.
Vladimir Smicer looked to have rescued the holders when
he made it 2-2 in the 88th minute.
But Djorkaeff made no mistake from the spot to send put
Bolton into the quarter-finals.
Jay-Jay Okocha had given Bolton a 2-1 lead in the 79th
minute, restoring the Trotters' lead after Danny Murphy
levelled for the Reds after 66 minutes.
Mario Jardel had struck early to give Bolton a 1-0
half-time lead. He exposed a hesitant Reds defence to
head home at Anfield.
Gerard Houllier and Sam Allardyce both made changes as
they looked to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
Liverpool boss Houllier made six changes to the side
which beat Birmingham on Sunday while Allardyce brought
in seven new faces to his Bolton side.
Murphy - made captain for the night - Jerzy Dudek,
Vladimir Smicer, John Arne Riise, Anthony Le Tallec and
youngster Jon Otsemobor were brought into the Liverpool
Bruno Cheyrou, returning from injury, was handed a place
on the holders' bench alongside Steven Gerrard, Harry
Kewell and Florent Sinama-Pongolle.
Bolton called in Kevin Poole, Anthony Barness, Henrik
Pedersen, Ricardo Gardner, Jardel, Ibrahim Ba and
Emerson Thome, leaving only four of the side that beat
Everton on Saturday.
On paper, Bolton's reshuffle looked a lot stronger than
Liverpool's with the likes of Okocha, Ivan Campo, Youri
Djorkaeff and Jardel in the side.
And on four minutes they went ahead when Jardel,
unmarked, headed home Djorkaeff's left-wing corner for
his third goal for the club on only his third appearance
in the starting line-up.
Liverpool's response was a 35-yard free-kick from Riise
that Poole spilled but Smicer could only lift over the
bar from close range.
A minute later Smicer's cross from the right was clipped
inches over the bar by Emile Heskey.
Le Tallec was finding it tough going against Thome up
front, but he won a free-kick on the edge of the box
after 25 minutes, and Riise saw another fierce drive
Liverpool's first serious attack came on 25 minutes when
Otsemobor raced away down the right and found Smicer,
whose ball across the box was met by Le Tallec with a
right-foot shot that Thome blocked in the six yard box.
Another foul on Le Tallec presented Murphy with the
chance to curl a 25-yard free kick just over the top on
the half hour.
Dudek then managed to mishandle a speculative 40-yard
low drive on the run by Okocha, the ball spinning off
his hands for a corner, and he somehow managed to hurt
his left leg in the embarrassing incident.
Bolton had been happy to defend and break, and on 43
minutes Barness' run down the right created a chance for
Pedersen but he headed just wide.
Campo saw an effort from the edge of the penalty area
blocked two minutes into the second half, with
Liverpool's attempts to get back on terms still looking
Murphy's run at the heart of Bolton's defence created
acres of space for El-Hadji Diouf. But his first touch
was poor, and the chance was lost.
Then Heskey got in a shot after a right-wing cross, and
Campo rose to head away from an empty net.