The Tigers took the lead, against the run of play, when defender Paul McShane headed home after Liverpool failed to clear a corner. 10 minutes later things went from bad to worse as Jamie Carragher, having just conceeded a dubious free-kick on the half-way line, turned the ball into his own net after Hull took a quick free-kick and exploited the struggling Dossena.
The Italian left-back enjoyed his best performance for Liverpool since his arrival in the summer against PSV on Wednesday night but up against City’s Bernard Mendy, it was clear Hull had noted the Reds’ defensive weakness, giving the ball to Mendy to run at Dossena at every opportunity. Minutes before their second Mendy had again skinned Dossena and crossed the ball across the face of goal but Arbeloa covered and back heeled the ball away.
Dossena improved in the second half and provided some excellent crosses from the left, but after being out-jumped for the opening header and skinned for the second, Hul were clearly correct at noting our weak spot.
Liverpool, the crowd and players visibly shocked, rallied and got back on level terms within ten minutes of going two behind. Captain Gerrard with both at the Kop end. The first arrived after good work from Kuyt when he got out in the right channel – a position he has occupied all season with great effect yet somehow was made to play as a lone striker today. Kuyt’s ball across wasn’t cleared and Gerrard guided it back into the corner to half the visitors lead.
Gerrard levelled the spoils from close range with a shot into the top corner of the goal from a Dirk Kuyt knock-down which was hooked on by Benayoun. From here on it was all one-way traffic. It seemed inevitable Liverpool would take the lead before half-time with Hull now firmly on the back foot. The closest the goal came was Alonso’s curled effort which went just wide.
Benayoun, somehow described in the BBC Sport report as “impressive”, was too often knocked off the ball and outfought by Hull players in midfield, making Luis Garcia look like a heavyweight boxer. He was later replaced by youngster El Zhar who offered more pace on the right.
Liverpool dominated the second half, with Hull failing to test Pepe Reina, but somehow couldn’t get the winning goal through a combination of a lack of finishing in the box and Hull players literally throwing themselves in the way, blocking shots left, right and centre.
Riera tested their keeper with a stinging right foot volley, El Zhar had a shot well saved which Gerrard couldn’t follow up, numerous balls across the face of the box were begging to be put away. And Sami Hyypia, again impressive, went closest with his header from a corner which came back off the post.
The most frustrating thing was that a Â£20m striker, who had just had a good game in midweek, was set on the bench while youngsters like El Zhar and Lucas were brought on. No disrespect intended towards either of them, but early on in the season when we needed goals, Benitez was bringing off full backs for forwards to go for the win; today he took off a defensive midfielder for another, a right winger for another. He never changed the system or style of play to break Hull down.
Benitez bought Keane, if he isn’t going to play him against Hull City, when Kuyt – recognised as a midfielder this season – is playing a lone striker role which he is clearly struggling with, then when is he going to play him? Maybe it would explain Gerrard’s sulky attitude when he can see how much a goalscorer was needed in the final third, and we never had one on the pitch.
It was another frustrating day at Anfield but somehow Liverpool remain top – albeit most likely only until Chelsea play on Sunday.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Dossena, Mascherano (Leiva Lucas 87), Alonso, Benayoun (El Zhar 74), Gerrard, Riera (Babel 82), Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Keane, Ngog.
Booked: El Zhar, Hyypia, Alonso.
Goals: Gerrard 24, 32.
Hull: Myhill, McShane (Marney 27), Zayatte, Turner, Ricketts, Mendy, Ashbee, Boateng (Halmosi 66), Geovanni, Barmby (Windass 77), King.
Subs Not Used: Warner, Garcia, Cousin, Giannakopoulos.
Booked: McShane, Boateng, Marney.
Goals: McShane 12, Carragher 22 og.
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)