Opinion: Resolute Rovers deserved their Anfield draw

A few days before Blackburn Rovers travelled to Anfield to take on Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, Gary Bowyer - manager of the Championship side - told the press that he had a plan. 

"We've studied the videos, we've come up with a gameplan, and we've worked with the players on it," Bowyer said. "We'll go and take the challenge to Liverpool. We've been very organised and very disciplined in the previous meetings with the Premier League teams."

He wasn't lying. His 11th-placed side, who have been largely average throughout their league campaign, were much improved in the FA Cup, just as they were against Swansea City and Stoke City in the two previous rounds.

Denying the Reds the space and time to carve out the opportunities they often create, Blackburn were also given the bit of luck that they needed - with Martin Skrtel being forced off early on with concussion.

That left Rudy Gestede to play against the likes of Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure, two players who are notably less aerially dominant than the Slovakian, and the 6ft 4in striker made the most of it - causing problems throughout the first-half, even if he was quiet after the interval.

To their full credit, they did not simply come to Anfield to pitch up and sit back for an entire 90 minutes. They survived a second-half bombardment, for sure, but for the best part of 55 minutes at least - Rovers were the better of the two sides.

Craig Conway should have done better inside the area on the hour-mark, whilst Alex Baptiste's second-half header had Simon Mignolet sprawling across his goal. The statistics say that Rovers had only four shots, but they were found themselves in dangerous areas in the Liverpool box on an alarming amount of occasions. 

Blackburn's stern defence were equally as impressive. Liverpool had chances, but not too many of them were particularly clear-cut. Admittedly, they should have done better with some - Kolo Toure should have converted his header from two-yards out, but chance after chance fell by the wayside.

The Reds, in essence, rewinded back to the early months of January, when they struggled to convert chances as they rued the absence of Daniel Sturridge, but even with the Englishman - they found it hard to find the breakthrough.

Adam Lallana seemed insistent on taking one touch too many. Lazar Markovic was largely ineffectual. Raheem Sterling's wing-back role prevented him from causing much damage. Philippe Coutinho's performance demonstrated why perhaps, he's still not the finish article. Despite a few sensational mazy runs, his decision-making was often in question. Not to mention Sturridge, who was almost entirely absent, and held up the ball for too long when he did get involved. In fact, as the media would hate to admit, Mario Balotelli arguably did the most of any Reds' attacker, which says a lot as even he wasn't brilliant, but he looked like making the difference.

It was an underwhelming afternoon for a side who have been promising so much in the league of late. Once again, they struggled to overcome a relatively average side on home turf, and the atmosphere from the home supporters reflected the performance. Mute, underwhelming and unlike what it should have been. 

Perhaps there are some positives that have been overlooked. It was another clean sheet, for starters. The Reds may not have been up against the most lethal attack, but it showed that even with the much-maligned pair Dejan Lovren and Glen Johnson in the back three, Liverpool have improved massively at the back.

Not to mention, the Reds are still actually in the competition. At the bottom line, the Reds have taken six points from six in the Premier League this week - beating Manchester City and Burnley, whilst their name is still in the pot for Monday night's semi-final draw.

Sure, there's still work to be done and the test that awaits at Ewood Park will require much more effort than the goalless stalemate on Merseyside, but the Reds have shown so far in 2015 that they have the talent and technique required to grind out results, and that's exactly what Brendan Rodgers will have been saying to his team after the final whistle. Forget the poor performance and look towards Swansea to bounce back. 

The fairytale farewell for Steven Gerrard is not out of the window just yet.

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