x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Kuyt is the hero again for Reds

Dirk Kuyt scores a late winner for Liverpool for the second consecutive game as they snatch three points.

LIVERPOOL // Dirk Kuyt scored a late winner for Liverpool for the second consecutive game as Rafa Benitez's men snatched the points in a match the Latics had led for a long period. The Wigan striker Amr Zaki had impressed with two goals to give the visitors a 2-1 lead and Liverpool only took control after the winger Antonio Valencia was sent off in the 74th minute for his second yellow card.

Albert Riera levelled with his first Liverpool goal in the 80th minute with a 20-yard drive. Jermaine Pennant then set up Kuyt for his second goal, a match-winning volley with five minutes to go. Perhaps distracted by their Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid next week, Liverpool struggled with their passing game and almost allowed Wigan's Egyptian striker Zaki to steal the limelight on the 450th Liverpool appearance by captain Steven Gerrard.

Wigan were agonisingly close to a first victory against any of the big four clubs in 26 attempts, but lost their focus after Valencia departed after collecting two yellow cards in five minutes. A shocking defensive error by Daniel Agger handed Wigan the early lead. The Liverpool defender, making his first Premier League start of the season, collected a back pass from his goalkeeper, but was dispossessed by Zaki, who coolly beat Pepe Reina to score in the 29th minute.

The home side, though, were level eight minutes later as Riera centred for Kuyt to net from close range. The Dutchman then had a shot saved and Reira headed over from close range, but it was Wigan who scored again before the break. Zaki unleashed a spectacular acrobatic volley in stoppage time which gave Reina no chance and he has now scored eight times for Wigan in nine appearances in his season-long loan from Zamalek.

Liverpool pushed forward in search of an equaliser after the restart, but looked blunt in attack until they gained a numerical advantage with Valenica's red. It was an entertaining game, which was even more impressive considering both sides had been without key players. Emile Heskey did not even make the Latics' bench against his former club because of injury. Liverpool were missing the attacking force of Fernando Torres, sidelined after tearing his hamstring while on duty for Spain.

The Dutch winger Ryan Babel was also hurt in World Cup qualifying and missed the game. @Email:sports@thenational.ae