Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Liverpool back in the mix for champions league spot

Dirk Kuyt's double strike injected new life into Liverpool's stuttering Barclays Premier League campaign as it secured a 2-0 victory over Tottenham.

The Holland international fired home in the sixth minute from the edge of the area and then converted a twice-taken penalty in second-half injury time.

Victory lifted the Reds to within one point of fourth-placed Spurs and eased the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez after early exits from the Champions League and FA Cup.

The importance of the match to Liverpool's top-four aspirations had been outlined by Benitez yesterday and his players responded in fine style.

It was a match the Reds could not afford to lose, having dropped two points thanks to Stoke's late equaliser on Saturday, and they did not disappoint an appreciative Anfield crowd.

There was a brief early scare when Jose Reina spilled a Gareth Bale cross under pressure from former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, but he reclaimed the ball bravely from the challenge of Jermain Defoe.

Reina picked himself up to hoist a long kick downfield which Kuyt knocked back to Aquilani, playing in the hole behind the striker.

The Italian's close control took him past Michael Dawson, who brought down the playmaker, but the ball rolled to Kuyt on the edge of the penalty area and he fired low past Heurelho Gomes' right-hand to give his side the lead.

Jermaine Jenas was booked in the 27th minute for bringing down Philipp Degen as he raced over the halfway line but Liverpool failed to make the free-kick count.

And moments later Defoe was lucky to escape with just a talking to from referee Howard Webb after diving in and standing on Degen's foot.

The Swiss international was on the end of yet more rough treatment in the 34th minute when Bale clashed heads with the makeshift midfielder, which led to the Wales defender being cautioned.

Javier Mascherano became the first Liverpool player to be booked when he lost possession and then slid in on Crouch.

In first-half injury time Kuyt's header from Albert Riera's inswinging corner was stopped by Bale yards from the line and Martin Skrtel blazed the rebound over.

Moments later Luka Modric's shot was saved well low to his left by Reina.

Liverpool have made a season of failing to hang on to leads and they almost gifted Spurs an equaliser straight after the restart.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos dithered on the ball before surprising Reina with a short back-pass which immediately put the goalkeeper under pressure from Defoe.

Fortunately for the Spaniard the Tottenham striker was adjudged to have fouled him seconds before Crouch rolled the ball into an unguarded net.

Wilson Palacios was next to go into Webb's notebook for pulling down Lucas as he attempted to run through the Spurs defence on the halfway line.

Riera almost doubled Liverpool's lead in the 52nd minute when his header from Jamie Carragher's cross beat Gomes but crashed back off the crossbar.

Considering their recent habit of conceding in the last minute the hosts desperately needed a second goal to give them a cushion but the longer the game went on without one the more confident Spurs became.

The danger was highlighted when Jenas' first-time shot from 25 yards had Reina going the wrong way before he stuck out a hand to deflect it behind.

Having sent on Alan Hutton for Vedran Corluka, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp then replaced Niko Kranjcar with ex-Reds striker Robbie Keane.

Liverpool should have made it easier for themselves in the 66th minute when Kuyt robbed Dawson on halfway to race clear but he opted to play in Degen to his right instead of shooting and over-hit his pass.

Liverpool continued to press and Kuyt volleyed over at the far post after Degen had flicked on Aquilani's free-kick while Riera was just wide with a 25-yard swerving left-foot shot. Spurs, however, continued to threaten and Hutton's spectacular volley curled around the outside of Reina's right-hand post.

Substitute David Ngog almost secured victory within minutes of coming on when he turned fellow substitute Sebastien Bassong but curled a shot across the face of goal. However, he won a crucial penalty in the first of five minutes of injury time when Bassong brought him down.

Kuyt scored the first effort only to be ordered to re-take by Webb, but the Dutchman held his nerve to send Gomes the wrong way and Liverpool heading in the right direction up the table.

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