CARLSBERG don’t have their name emblazoned across Liverpool shirts any more. They don’t do football scripts either.
If they did, though, its likely Brad Jones and Andy Carroll would have starring roles to play. And this game would be definitely be nominated in the ‘Best British Drama’ category.
Five goals, two penalties, a red card and more talking points than a Jeremy Kyle Newsnight special. Liverpool’s last visit to Ewood Park saw the end of one manager, this one will have given his replacement palpitations.
The way Kenny Dalglish’s luck has been going lately, the Scot will scour his driveway for traces of black cats. As Alexander Doni made his way from the field, the second Reds goalkeeper to be red carded in three games, he could have been forgiven for heading for the nearest Ewood exit.
But from adversity comes strength, and Liverpool found theirs in unlikely forms.
Carroll’s winner, bulleted past Paul Robinson in stoppage time, gave Liverpool their first away league win since January, ending their worst run of form for 59 years in the process. If it was redemptive for the £35m striker, it was priceless to his club.
But if the former Newcastle man’s contribution was unexpected – he had spent the majority of the second half defending manfully inside his own half, buying his shattered side time with nous and strength – Jones’ was miraculous.
The Australian has spent the vast majority of his Anfield career backstage, waiting in the wings. Suddenly, as sheets of rain swept across central Lancashire, came the Australian’s time to shine.
It has been a long time coming. Signed from Middlesbrough for £2.5m in the summer of 2010, Jones in many ways was a symbol of Roy Hodgson’s counter-productive six-month reign at Anfield.
Pepe Reina’s understudies rarely clean up in terms of appearance bonuses, but Jones’ rare first-team outings were indicative of a failing Hodgson regime. One was a nondescript Europa League snoozefest against FC Utrecht, the other a Carling Cup humiliation at home to Northampton Town.
And since then, nothing. A seven-game loan spell with Championship side Derby County aside, that is.
Now, the 30-year-old has Liverpool’s season in his hands.
With Doni, incredibly, now joining Reina on the suspended list, it will be Jones who is charged with keeping out Everton in Saturday’s FA Cup semi final at Wembley. No pressure, Brad.
As if in anticipation of that test, the back-up’s back-up spent the majority of his 64 minutes on the field engaged in a personal duel with a former Everton striker.
Jones won round one, saving Yakubu’s tamest of spot kicks, but he would make his own contribution to the evening’s drama.
Yakubu would beat him with a neat header before half-time and, after charging down a hesitant clearance and then being shoved to the ground by the pumped-up keeper, from the penalty spot just after the hour mark.
It was pure theatre, a night for unlikely heroes in red.
Maxi Rodriguez’s two first-half goals took his season’s tally to six in just 16 appearances. The Argentine’s movement, use of the ball and temperament may just have nudged him into Dalglish’s Wembley plans.
But the sight of Jordan Henderson rolling up his sleeves, enjoying his best game for the club in the unfamiliar role of right back, of Carroll, mature and decisive, leading the way in difficult circumstances, and of Jay Spearing performing a passable impression of Didi Hamann in the centre of midfield will have pleased the Reds boss just as much.
Liverpool’s character has been tested, questioned in recent weeks, but they answered plenty of questions here.
Of course, it is hard not to spare a thought for Doni, who seems to have followed Dalglish over those black cats.
The Brazilian, too, has been forced to wait patiently for his chance behind Reina; when it came, it lasted precisely 115 minutes.
Jon Flanagan, whose atrocious backpass led to Doni’s dismissal, has a lot of making up to do to the former Roma man. The youngster endured a night that is perhaps best put down to inexperience, and was withdrawn in the aftermath of the red card.
There will be plenty of time for Dalglish and his staff to analyse the side’s myriad failings between now and the weekend.
They should be under no illusions that all the Reds’ ills are cured after one manic evening.
Instead, they have simply reinforced their standing as drama kings. Their star may have fallen during a torrid recent run, but they remain a box office club.
In terms of this particular production, the cast deserve credit. Jones, Carroll and the rest of the misfits have taken enough punches in recent weeks, they have earnt their night in the spotlight, centre-stage. They are unlikely to figure in a much more dramatic screenplay.