Match Report by Max Munton
Dirk Kuyt scored a hat-trick as Liverpool swept aside arch rivals Manchester Utd comprehensively at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
In a brilliant Liverpool performance, Kuyt finished from close range three times – with a big helping hand from the sensational Luis Suarez. The game also saw a debut handed to Liverpool’s new number nine, Andy Carroll.
Discuss the victory with other LFC fans in our Liverpool FC Forums.
With Martin Kelly out injured for a month, Glen Johnson reprised his role at right-back with Fabio Aurelio recovering from injury to fill in the left-back position.
Daniel Agger didn’t recover from a leg injury in time, so Jamie Carragher partnered Martin Skrtel in central defence.
Maxi Rodriguez returned to Liverpool’s midfield after missing the 3-1 defeat to West Ham last Sunday, whilst Luis Suarez started up front, supported by Dirk Kuyt.
It was a very open first half, with lots of disposession and end to end attacking play from both sides.
Suarez was almost played in just minutes into the game when Meireles’ ball across the ball fiercely found its way onto the feet of the Uruguayan, but the pace evaded Suarez.
At the other end Dimitar Berbatov hit a sweet half volley from outside the box on 15 minutes which clipped the outside of Pepe Reina’s right hand post in front of the Kop, a warning sign from the visitors.
Just minutes later Liverpool were close again. Suarez’s sweeping ball from the right found Meireles free in the box. His header back across goal saw Kuyt go close, but in the end gathered by United’s defence.
Aurelio’s injury problems continued when he was forced out of the game prematurely half way through the fist half, going down with a hamstring injury and replaced by Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
What can only be described as sensational work from Suarez saw Liverpool take the lead just after the half hour mark, as Anfield erupted.
The Uruguayan with a fantastic turn inside on the left hand side of the penalty area, twisted and turned his way towards goal before squaring it to Kuyt who had the simple job of tapping home on the line. Incredible work from Suarez and a deserved lead for Liverpool.
The Reds appeared to have rattled Utd with the opening goal at the Anfield Road End, and followed it up with a succession of corners and pressure.
This ended with a second for Liverpool on 38 minutes when the pressure from the Reds saw Nani comically head a ball back towards his own goal, rather than clear it. Kuyt was there to get his head on it and direct it past Edwin van der Sar and double Liverpool’s advantage.
Two simple goals from the Dutch international, but goals that put the Reds firmly in the driving seat and completely shaken Utd.
The first half ended in a tirade of tension from both sides. First, Carragher booked for a challenge on Nani which saw the Portuguese winger stretchered from the game with a shin injury and a brawl of angry reactions in which van der Sar was booked.
Deep into injury time at the end of the first half, Rafael was lucky to only get a yellow card for his dangerous challenge on Lucas. It enraged Martin Skrtel, who was duly cautioned as well.
Shortly after the break, Giggs went close with a snap shot from just ouside the Liverpool penalty area. His effort fizzed fairly comfortably over Reina’s goal as Liverpool started the half with some good counter-attacking football.
But Utd kept up their pressure and Berbatov soon saw a header from close range cleared off the line from Meireles, before Giggs’ free kick from the very edge of the area, central, swept over.
At the other end, Meireles continued to cause United’s defence problems, latching onto a good through-ball from Kuyt and forcing a save from van der Sar just after the hour mark.
Then Kuyt completed his hat-trick, his first the Liverpool and first since one for Feyanoord in 2005. Kuyt was quickest to react when van der Sar could only parry Suarez’s sweeping free-kick at goal. Kuyt pounced on it to send the Kop into delerium.
With the three goal cushion, Dalglish thought it the perfect time to hand a debut to £35million striker Carroll, back from a thigh injury for the first time since December. Liverpool’s new number nine coming on for Meireles with just over 15 minutes to go.
Carroll’s first big piece of the action saw him leap well to head back a header to Kuyt on the edge of the area, who struck a fierce shot that went easily into the Kop.
Late on, Saurez went on another frightening run at the Man Utd defence, leaving defenders weeping, but just lacked the final finish.
Suarez was given a standing ovation when he left the field with two minutes to go, replaced by Joe Cole.
Gerrard went close with two shots in the dying seconds, fizzing two drives only sligthly either side of van der Sar’s goal.
Hernandez nicked a late consolation goal for the visitors with a header that Liverpool’s defence will be frustrated to let it, but it doesn’t take anything away from a fantastic victory.
It was the most professional of performances from Liverpool, who were forced to readjust when Aurelio was taken off injured inside the first half.
Kuyt with three simple goals, but was in the right place at the right time. Big credit to Suarez for his part in two of them too, the Uruguayan already looking like a Kop hero for years to come.
For Liverpool, the victory takes them up to sixth in the table with a powerful and emphatic victory behind them to boost confidence in the final games of the season.
And, whatever this means to Utd’s title hopes, victory is always sweet for Liverpool. And a very special 60th birthday present for King Kenny.
Team Line-ups & Substitutions
Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio (Kyrgiakos 24), Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Maxi, Lucas, Gerrard, Kuyt, Meireles (Carroll 73), Suarez (Cole 89).
Subs not used: Gulacsi, Spearing, Poulsen, Ngog.
Booked: Carragher, Skrtel.
Manchester Utd: van der Sar, Evra, Brown, Smalling, Rafael (O’Shea 75), Giggs, Carrick, Scholes (Fletcher 83), Nani (Hernandez 48), Berbatov, Rooney.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Fabio, Gibson, Obertan.
Booked: van der Sar, Rafael, Scholes.
Man of the Match Vote