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Blackburn 2 - 3 Liverpool
, Wed 11/04/12 at 11:15
Andy Carroll scored an injury-time winner to give Liverpool a 3-2 win over Blackburn on a night when stand-in goalkeeper Alexander Doni received a red card which will rule him out of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Everton.
The Reds led 2-0 until Doni was dismissed for a foul on Junior Hoilett after 25 minutes.
On came third choice stopper Brad Jones in a week when his partner Dani gave birth to a baby boy named Nico Luca after Brad's sadly deceased son Luca - and the Australian immediately saved a penalty.
A Yakubu brace looked to have given Blackburn the point that would lift them out of the relegation zone until Carroll ruined their night with a close-range header.
Kenny Dalglish made six changes to his side from Saturday's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, selecting Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez on the bench and resting Steven Gerrard altogether.
The return of first-choice right-back Glen Johnson, meanwhile, provided a timely boost ahead of the Wembley derby. The England man was given 52 minutes before being replaced by Daniel Agger.
Liverpool offered little in the opening exchanges but after 13 minutes they were in front following a route one pass downfield by captain-for-the-night Martin Skrtel, whose vision to pick out Craig Bellamy is sure to feature in any highlights package of his already excellent season. Bellamy then delivered a precise cross which made Maxi's task of finishing the job at the far post an easy one.
Three minutes later the Argentine made it 2-0 from a similar position, this time using his predatory instincts to convert after both Jonjo Shelvey and Carroll were denied.
So far, so very good. But the night was about to take a downward turn as Doni received a straight red card for felling Hoilett in the box after a misplaced back pass from Jon Flanagan.
The Brazilian, who had been set to fill in for the suspended Pepe Reina at Wembley, was inconsolable.
With 25 minutes gone, Flanagan was replaced by Jones, whose first task would be to stand in the way of a Yakubu penalty right in front of the Liverpool fans.
His reward for saving it? An emotional hug from Skrtel, but they and Liverpool would now have to play the remainder of this encounter with 10 men and Jordan Henderson at right-back.
On 36 minutes Blackburn reduced their arrears when David Dunn clipped a free-kick into the danger area which Yakubu nodded beyond the helpless Jones.
Liverpool had a chance to restore their two-goal lead immediately after the restart when Bellamy whipped in a corner. Carroll got there but his diving header from six yards flew wide.
Shelvey robbed Dunn midway through the Blackburn half before going for glory and finding instead row Z.
Then, on 61 minutes, a dramatic night almost became surreal as Jones whacked a clearance against Yakubu, fumbled the subsequent catch and then leaned into the Blackburn striker as he tried to capitalise. The Rovers faithful screamed for a red card but referee Andy Taylor showed calm to issue a yellow.
Still, the hosts had a penalty and this time Yakubu made no mistake.
Jones then prevented an extraordinary own goal with a fingertip save to block Carroll's skewed header from the edge of his own box.
The game looked to be heading for a draw until injury time when Sebastian Coates knocked the ball into the box, Agger nodded it across goal and Carroll thumped a header past Robinson.
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