x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Kuyt steps up to the plate as 10 men triumph

In the absence of the injured Fernando Torres and without a Premier League goal from Steven Gerrard in 2010, Liverpool have needed new inspiration.

LIVERPOOL // In the absence of the injured Fernando Torres and without a Premier League goal from Steven Gerrard in 2010, Liverpool have needed new inspiration. It has come in the shape of Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman delivered his fourth goal in as many games as Rafa Benitez's 10 men recorded a notable triumph in the 213th Merseyside derby. Despite having Sotirios Kyrgiakos sent off in the 34th minute for a two-footed lunge on Marouane Fellaini, Liverpool claimed the winner through Kuyt's close-range header 10 minutes after the break.

Benitez said: "It's good for him and good for our fans that he can be a hero. "He has scored 50 goals now, which is an amazing record for someone who plays everywhere. It was an amazing performance from the players. This is a massive result for us." Benitez, though, refused to discuss the performance of the referee Martin Atkinson, who had a difficult day. In a fixture that had produced the most red cards - eight in the last 10 meetings and 17 in total - since the Premier League began in 1992, this was always going to be feisty and ferocious.

Just seconds into the game, Jamie Carragher thundered into a challenge with Steven Pienaar, who felt the effect. It was no-holds barred and produced a first-half that was more barbaric than the beautiful game. Javier Mascherano was fortunate to escape a yellow for a late challenge on Fellaini in the 10th minute and Pienaar should have seen red for his over-the-top tackle on Liverpool's Argentine midfielder.

Rightly, there was to be no reprieve for Kyrgiakos. But Fellaini should have been dismissed too as he went off on a stretcher. While an X-ray looks to have cleared any serious damage to the Belgian's ankle, his stamp on the Greek defender's shin resulted in two stitches. Any feeling of injustice only galvanised the home side. It was a repeat of 2006 when Gerrard was sent off early on, but Liverpool won 3-1.

"This year was the same effort," said Benitez, whose side continue their fight for fourth place with a trip to Arsenal on Wednesday. "Team spirit is maybe better when you know you have to fight and stick together." Gerrard added: "That is what derbies are all about. There was passion, commitment and fight." There was little in terms of flowing football and chances, though. Gerrard came closest just before half time when he clipped the top of the bar with a 25-yard free kick.

Everton responded with their best moment seconds later as a Mascherano clearing header dropped into the path of the unmarked Tim Cahill. But the Australian sent his diving header over. It was a miss he was made to regret. Liverpool showed more desire and determination and the goal highlighted that. Kuyt was surrounded by blue shirts and the Everton keeper Tim Howard, but still managed to nod Gerrard's corner in for his fourth derby goal.

Everton were abysmal in attack, testing Pepe Reina only in the final minute. The substitute Yakubu turned Carragher to create some room and his 20-yard effort was pushed over by the Spanish keeper. What followed in the fifth minute of injury time added to their disappointment - and was seemingly inevitable. Pienaar jumped up for a header with Gerrard and barged into the Liverpool captain. Mr Atkinson showed him a soft second yellow card and he was off.

David Moyes, the Everton mana-ger, said: "I have no complaints because there was a tackle earlier on that he might have been fortunate to stay on for that one. He's got a red card in the end and I can't have much argument over it." What disappointed him most was the way Everton's three-match winning league run ended with a whimper. "We did not create enough hances with the extra man," said Moyes. "The goal came from a set piece, which, in the past, might have been us who had done that.

"We might not have deserved to win it, but we should not have lost it." akhan@thenational.ae