Liverpool stay in hunt after win at Hull

Liverpool saw off a spirited performance from 10-man Hull City to win 3-1 at the KC Stadium and keep alive their hopes of wresting the Premier League title off Manchester United.

Despite an encouraging first-half performance from Hull, Xabi Alonso broke the deadlock just before the half-time whistle with a well-struck shot from 25 yards.

The hosts struggled to recover from the blow and when Caleb Folan was dismissed for a petulant kick at Martin Skrtel on 59 minutes, their hopes of getting something from the game effectively evaporated.

Dirk Kuyt hammered home Liverpool's advantage to make it 2-0 four minutes later and, despite Geovanni's 73rd minute strike which briefly gave the home fans hope, Kuyt bagged his own second and the Reds' third at the death to seal a vital win.

Nothing but all three points would have been enough for Liverpool in their chase for the title, and victory saw them once again move ahead of United at the top of the table, although the champions - who play Tottenham in the late kick-off - still have two games in hand.

For Hull, defeat could yet have serious implications in their fight to stay in the top flight - Phil Brown's side remain in 17th after failing to steal a march on Middlesbrough and Newcastle, who both play on Sunday.

Desire, spirit and a never-say-die attitude - not to mention the odd slice of luck - are the main survival ingredients for teams involved in a relegation dogfight.

At least Brown can console himself with the fact that his side have the first three of those things.

During a stirring first-half display, Hull not only succeeding in holding Liverpool goalless for the majority of the half, but actually enjoyed the better of the play.

Folan, recalled to the starting line-up at the expense of Angolan striker Manucho, signalled the hosts' intent after just six minutes, running in on goal before a rather leaden-footed turn let him down.

Brazilian Geovanni also looked sharp early on; his first-time half volley from the edge of the penalty area whistled just wide of Pepe Reina's post on 17 minutes in what would have been a sure-fire contender for goal of the season had it bulged the back of the net.

In between those efforts, the irrepressible Fernando Torres had seen a shot deflected just over the Hull bar, but at the other end even Nick Barmby threatened to add to his one league goal this season, the veteran nearly getting on the end of a deep cross on 38 minutes.

But for all thehome side's endeavour, Jose Reina in the Liverpool goal remained largely untroubled during the first half, and Liverpool took full advantage to nick an opener in the last minute of the opening period.

Alonso, who has become increasingly valuable to Liverpool, especially in the continued absence through injury of Steven Gerrard, was the scorer, the Spaniard firing past Boaz Myhill at the second attempt after his initial free-kick had come back to him off the wall.

Considering their efforts for the majority of the opening period, conceding at such a crucial time was harsh on Hull.

Add to that a sense of injustice that the free-kick was awarded in the first place - George Boateng was booked after the half-time whistle sounded for putting forward the case that Javier Mascherano had dived under his challenge too forcefully - and it was understandable that the hosts came out after the break a little deflated.

Liverpool sensed their chance and the dismissal of Folan - who appeared to have taken inspiration from Real Madrid defender Pepe, whose midweek dismissal in La Liga earned him a 10-match ban - played into the visitors' hands.

Soon after Hull were reduced to 10 men, Kuyt proved his poaching qualities for the first time of the day, the Dutchman diverting a Skrtel shot past Myhill with his head.

Again, Hull were left to rue their bad luck as replays showed the ball to have struck Lucas Leiva on the arm in the build-up. But referee Martin Atkinson missed it and allowed the goal to stand.

Kuyt then settled matters in the last minute with a similarly instinctive strike, this time diverting Alvaro Arbeloa's wayward shot into the back of the net.

In between Geovanni's straight-forward finish after good work by substitute Daniel Cousin had briefly given hope to Hull, but ultimately it had no bearing on the result.

Indeed, Liverpool could have increased their margin of victory further had Torres's towering header not struck the bar in the 79th minute.
Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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