United plunged into DIRKness at Anfield

Dirk Kuyt

Dutch international Dirk Kuyt scored a thumping hat-trick as the Liverpool juggernaut crushed a hapless Manchester United 3-1 at Anfield.

In a game that was dominated by the hosts from start to finish, Liverpool’s finishing quality and limitless energy turned out to be the crucial difference between the two arch rivals.

Dirk Kuyt gave Liverpool the lead in the 34th minute after an easy tap in following a mesmerising piece of skill from Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan striker twisted and turned past four Manchester United defenders to put in a pass across the face of goal giving Kuyt a chance he could finish with his eyes closed. Four minutes later, Kuyt doubled the lead as a horrific header from Nani towards his own goalkeeper turned into a perfect cross for Kuyt to head home. He completed his hat-trick in the 65th minute when Van der Sar managed only to parry a free-kick from Luis Suarez and Kuyt deftly stepped in to score his third of the night.

Substitute Javier Hernandez managed a goal for the visitors in the dying minutes but given the drubbing that the Premier League leaders got at the hands of their arch rivals today, it would be wholly inappropriate to term it as a consolation goal.

The starting line-ups were more or less on expected lines. Kenny Dalglish went with four at the back and with Martin Kelly and Daniel Agger injured, Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio were slotted into the right and left back positions respectively. Up front, Luis Suarez was supported by Dirk Kuyt, Raul Meireles and Maxi Rodriguez with the attacking players exchanging positions with aplomb. Lucas and skipper Steven Gerrard (who started despite rumours that he would miss the match with injury) made up the pivot of the Liverpool midfield.

Alex Ferguson was without his first choice central defending pair as Vidic was suspended and Ferdinand injured. So, the central defensive duties fell to Chris Smalling and Wes Brown with Rafael on the right and Evra recovering from his injury to captain the side and take his position on the left. Hernandez and Fletcher were left on the bench as Fergusson decided to field Scholes, Carrick, Nani and Giggs in midfield with Rooney and Berbatov up front.

The match started at a furious pace with both teams creating chances in the opening minutes. The first chance fell to Luis Suarez as early as the 2nd minute after a driven cross from Raul Meireles but the ball hit the Uruguayan striker before he could bring it under control.

The visitors tried to gradually get back into the game after the lively start by Liverpool and Berbatov came close to opening the scoring in the 16th minute but only managed to hit the post with a good shot from about 25 yards out.

Liverpool were dealt a body blow in the 22nd minute when Fabio Aurelio had to be replaced by Kyrgiakos due to a hamstring injury. The substitution meant that Kenny Dalglish had to rejig his defensive line with Johnson moving to the left, Carragher moving to the right and Kyrgiakos slotting in at the centre.

With half-time approaching and Liverpool two goals to the good, the match turned spiteful as two horrible tackles resulted in considerable chaos on the field. Jamie Carragher caught Nani with a bad tackle which was made worse by Nani’s histrionics. The Manchester United winger got up from the challenge and rushed towards referee Phil Dowd, who was already being surrounded by other United players, then inexplicably fell down again as if poleaxed and started writhing around and crying. To add to the mysterious circumstances, Nani even lashed out at an ambulance staff while being attended to! The United players wanted Carragher to be sent off but the referee only showed him a yellow card along with one to Van der Sar for protesting too much. Nani had to leave the field in a stretcher as Hernandez replaced him on the field.

However, the complaints the United players had regarding the Nani incident were quickly countered when Rafael went flying into a two-footed challenge on Lucas but Dowd once again produced only a yellow and added one to Skrtel for his reaction. The first half thus ended with the players’ tempers on a knife edge but Liverpool with a 2-0 lead.

Manchester United started the second half on a strong note but failed to score despite repeated forays into the Liverpool penalty area. Raul Meireles came up with a goalline clearance in the 58th minute even as Manchester United players claimed handball. Television replays later showed that the ball came off his chest and his hand was nowhere near the ball. Three minutes later, Raul Meireles almost scored at the other end as Van der Sar pulled off a brilliant save to deny him Liverpool’s third. However, the final nail was struck into the visitors’ coffin when Dirk Kuyt completed his hat-trick in the 65th minute matching Peter Beardsley’s feat in 1990.

Striker Andy Carroll also made his much anticipated debut for Liverpool when he replaced Raul Meireles in the 72nd minute. After being out of action since December due to injury, Dalglish decided to give him about twenty minutes to ease him back to full match fitness. With the performances put in by Suarez, Kuyt and Meireles today, his addition to the team certainly bodes well for Liverpool’s attacking line.
Liverpool jumped back into sixth position with the victory while Manchester United, although still leading the table with 60 points, saw their team lose their second consecutive away game and fail to take advantage of Arsenal dropping points against Sunderland yesterday. Liverpool may not be title contenders this season but the emphatic victory over their arch rivals may ultimately have a significant impact on the title race.

Graphics courtesy: N.Macca via CC


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