Friday, December 26, 2008
Keane double secures Boxing Day victory
Ireland international Robbie Keane can now safely assume that he will not be leaving Liverpool in January.
Two weeks ago, the Dubliner might have gone to bed at night worrying whether rumours of him becoming surplus to requirements at Anfield, just six months after his £20 million arrival from Tottenham, might actually become reality with the opening of the transfer window.
But having taken his tally to three goals in two games in the space of five days with his second-half double against Bolton, Keane not only banished any fears for his future, he also gave a glimpse as to why manager Rafael Benitez invested so much of Liverpool's money in the forward.
Keane, whose match-winning display was matched by that of the hugely impressive Xabi Alonso, did more than simply score two crisp goals to take his tally to five goals in seventeen league games. He pulled Bolton's overworked defenders all over the pitch, ran himself into the ground and, not insignificantly, he was even allowed to complete the ninety minutes, a rare privilege for the Irishman.
But, this being Liverpool, keeping everything on an even keel is the only way and Keane's performance was not afforded any special praise by assistant manager Sammy Lee, who once again took charge of the dug-out with Benitez only fit enough to watch from the directors' box following his recent kidney stones ailment.
Lee said: "It's always nice to see any Liverpool player score, never mind Robbie Keane. It's never been about individuals and Robbie has always worked very hard.
"He is a talented player and we know the quality that he provides, so we have never been worried by his performances. You would have to ask the boy himself, but I don't think that Robbie has ever been lacking in confidence. We know what he gives us."
With Fernando Torres still short of full fitness following a month-long hamstring lay-off, the prospect of Keane and Torres scoring goals together suggests that Liverpool can maintain their title push and they head for Newcastle on Sunday have retained top spot in the Premier League.
Lee added: "Being top is important, but this club prepares to be top of the league, not fifth, sixth or seventh and we are where we want to be at this moment in time."
Although Bolton began in determined mood, the defensive frailties of left-back Jlloyd Samuel opened the door for Albert Riera to score Liverpool's opener and set the home side on their way.
Samuel, who was twice easily beaten by Yossi Benayoun in the early stages, allowed Riera to escape at the near post and volley Steven Gerrard's corner past the exposed Jussi Jaaskelainen on 26 minutes and, from that moment on, Bolton never showed any signs of hauling themselves level, even when the hopeless Samuel was replaced by Kevin Davies at the interval.
Davies's introduction made no difference, however, as Liverpool merely upped the tempo and the crucial second goal came on 53 minutes when Keane beat Jaaskelainen with an unstoppable left-foot effort into the top corner after latching onto Gerrard's throughball.
From being on the verge of being written off as an expensive flop, Keane now appears to be finding form at just the right time and the Irish forward scored again five minutes later to take his league tally to five goals when he finished off a breathtaking move, started by goalkeeper Pepe Reina and moved on by Alonso and Yossi Benayoun, with a tap-in from six yards.
But despite being allowed to see out the game by Benitez and Lee, Keane could not dig out a hat-trick goal. Still, the victory was already assured and, for Bolton manager Gary Megson, the outcome of the game merely bolstered his belief that the Premier League is becoming a tale of the big four and the bottom sixteen.