Liverpool’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League suffered a fresh blow on Saturday as they crashed to a 3-1 defeat at struggling Bolton Wanderers.
Goals from Mark Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker and Gretar Steinsson secured a vital three points for Bolton, who moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this season following the win, but the defeat saw Liverpool squander an opportunity to close the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea and it continued a miserable run of form for the Reds, who have taken only six points from a possible 18.
Liverpool, whose lone goal came from Craig Bellamy, are now in seventh, six points adrift of Chelsea.
Furious Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish accused his players of disrespecting Bolton.
“There is no one at this club who doesn’t have respect for other people,” Dalglish said. “If that was what the problem was, if they thought this game was not as important as the next one, then fine — but they won’t be here. The result is disappointing, but the most disappointing thing was I don’t think they were ready to play the game.”
Bolton manager Owen Coyle later challenged his team to stay out of the relegation mire over the second half of the season.
“We know we’re capable of having a big second half of the season and that’s what we must do, we must kick on,” Coyle said.
Earlier, Fernando Torres’ three-month goal drought continued as Chelsea also stumbled in a 0-0 draw at Premier League newcomers Norwich City.
Chelsea enjoyed the better chances of a scrappy game, but they were left frustrated as Torres drew a blank yet again.
The draw left Chelsea in fourth place, five points behind third-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas later defended Torres, who has not scored for the club since October.
“He couldn’t find the back of the net, but we are not just looking for that,” Villas-Boas said. “With a little bit more luck, he will find the back of the net.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Clint Dempsey struck a hat-trick as Fulham came from behind to defeat sixth-placed Newcastle United 5-2 at Craven Cottage.
Danny Guthrie gave Newcastle the lead with a 25m thunderbolt just before halftime, before Fulham came roaring back in the second half.
Danny Murphy leveled from the penalty spot after Davide Santon brought down Damien Duff and then two goals in six minutes from Dempsey made it 3-1.
Bobby Zamora then made it 4-1 from the penalty spot on 68 minutes as Newcastle’s challenge unraveled.
Hatem Ben Arfa scored a consolation goal for Newcastle, before Dempsey completed his hat-trick.
Queens Park Rangers moved out of the relegation zone after goals from Heidar Helguson, Akos Buzsaky and Tommy Smith gave new manager Mark Hughes the first league victory of his reign with a 3-1 win over bottom club Wigan Athletic.
Wigan had raised hopes of a fightback in the second half when Hugo Rodallega pulled one back to make it 2-1, before goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi pulled off a stunning penalty save for the Latics, but QPR’s third, scored by Smith nine minutes from time, killed the game off and left Roberto Martinez’s side four points adrift of safety.
Meanwhile, Blackburn Rovers battled to a 1-1 draw against Everton at Goodison Park, David Goodwillie equalizing for Rovers after Tim Cahill’s first goal for 13 months gave Everton the lead on 24 minutes.