Kuyt winner knocks United out of the FA Cup

Dirk Kuyt

Liverpool knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup as they beat their arch rivals 2-1 in a keenly contested encounter at Anfield. Dutchman Dirk Kuyt proved the nemesis once again for the Red Devils as he scored from an Andy Carroll flick-on with only two minutes of regular time left on the clock. In what will be considered divine retribution by some, the player responsible for the winning goal was United captain Patrice Evra, the man involved in the spat with Liverpool striker Luis Suarez which led to the Uruguayan star being banned for eight matches.

The line-ups from both managers raised a few eyebrows before the onset of the game. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who had never lost an FA Cup tie in charge of Liverpool at Anfield, included Jamie Carragher, Martin Kelly, Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll in the starting line-up. Martin Kelly took up the orthodox right back position while Jamie Carragher was deployed in the holding midfielder role. Charlie Adam, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy, who is in the midst of a rich vein of form, found themselves on the bench.

Alex Ferguson was left without Rooney and Nani but included Patrice Evra as the skipper in the starting line-up despite the foregone conclusion that the French left back would get a hostile reception from the packed Anfield crowd. Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were given central midfield roles with Welbeck up front with Valencia and Park on either side.

Manchester United enjoyed a lot of possession in the opening minutes but it was their custodian De Gea who had to make the first save to deny Stewart Downing in the 4th minute. Liverpool had luck on their side when the upright denied Valencia the opening goal in the 17th minute. The United winger cut in from the right, skimmed past a desperate tackle from Maxi Rodriguez and thundered in a superb low shot which beat Pepe Reina in goal but only managed to hit the woodwork.

Liverpool took the lead in the 21st minute when Daniel Agger headed in a Steven Gerrard corner with De Gea helplessly scrambling to reach the ball. In what was certainly a humiliating reaction from the United dugout, the reserve goalkeeper Lindegaard was immediately sent to warm up!

However, Manchester United started enjoying a lot of possession as the game progressed with Andy Carroll struggling alone up front as the balls from midfield dried up. The possession ultimately culminated in the equaliser in the 39th minute as another attack down United's right proved fruitful. Valencia passed the ball out to Rafael who skipped past Enrique to pull back an impressive ball for Park Ji Sung to hammer home from about ten yards out. Liverpool managed to hold out for the rest of the half in spite of United dominance of possession and the game went into half-time with both teams locked at 1-1.

The second half started with the teams unchanged and the match settled into the pattern of the first half once again with United dominating possession and bossing the midfield. United fans had their hearts in their mouths in the 55th minute when De Gea passed the ball erroneously to Downing but the Liverpool player failed to capitalise as his attempt at a shot on goal was easily cleared. Two minutes later, Liverpool and Andy Carroll had a penalty claim turned down when the ball struck Smalling's hand and in all fairness to him, it was quite unintentional and certainly not a penalty.

Dalglish rang in the changes just past the hour mark as Charlie Adam and Dirk Kuyt came on for Carragher and Maxi Rodriguez. Dalglish followed it up with a bold change in the 72nd minute, bringing on the in-form Craig Bellamy in place of his skipper Steven Gerrard. United continued their forays into the Liverpool half and in the 85th minute, the hosts had a lucky escape as Reina had to charge out of his comfort zone to head the ball clear with Hernandez breathing down his neck.

Three minutes later, Anfield erupted in joy as Dirk Kuyt latched on to an Andy Carroll flick, went past a napping Patrice Evra and slotted the ball home. A minute later, the Dutchman almost consolidated Liverpool's lead with a third goal but his shot off an Andy Carroll rebound off the the crossbar went just wide. The hosts played intelligently in the closing minutes utilising the corner flag well as they ran the clock down. As the final whistle was blown, Anfield erupted in joy, drowning itself in the ecstasy of back-to-back Cup victories over formidable rivals.

Manchester United were probably the better team as far as possession and creative play were concerned but the Liverpool players showed great passion and commitment to weather the United storm and come up with important goals when it mattered the most. With a berth booked in the Carling Cup final already, and a formidable opponent out of the way in the FA Cup, Dalglish's team is certainly on the right path. All that remains to be done is a surge up the league table and Liverpool fans will certainly be a contented lot.

Graphics courtesy: dannymol via CC

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