Brighton and Hove Albion 1
Bellamy (7), Kuyt (81)
This was a game that should have been wrapped up long before the referee blew for half time.
Liverpool created chance after chance however the woodwork and a few inches here and there denied what would have been a deserved and conclusive lead at the break. Brighton came back into it and tried to make us pay however, our first half performance suggested that we always had enough and so it proved. Into “the hat” for Saturday’s Soccer AM draw and deservedly so.
Kenny made seven changes from Sunday some were optional some were forced. In defence Kelly, Robinson and Flanagan started and their performance was such that one was left wondering why all, or at least some, didn’t play on Sunday. In midfield Maxi, Kuyt and Spearing were given starts and Bellamy replaced Carroll to lead the line with Suarez. Steven Gerrard, presumably not to be rushed back too quickly, was given a place on the bench.
Before the game much was made about the size of Brighton’s pitch (apparently it is big) and how they like to knock the ball around and make use of the space. What many seemed to forget that this would also do us quite nicely thank you very much. And so it proved right from the kick off we found it easy to make openings as Brighton didn’t really work to hard to close us down effectively once they had lost the ball. The writing was on the wall at a very early stage as we knocked the ball around with ease and found space at will. So it was no surprise when Suarez found an opening on the left to slide in Bellamy whose low cross shot found the back of the net via the post.
The goal heralded a plethora of chances. Maxi, Kuyt, Suarez and Bellamy were at the heart of them as Brighton allowed them to riff off each other seemingly as and when they wanted. Suarez’s cross shot, after a delightful first time through ball from Kuyt, was inches wide. Suarez then grazed the post with a header from Bellamy’s free kick. Bellamy then when for the direct route with his next free kick, from thirty or so yards out, and hit the bar and Spearing hit the other post with another effort from distance and Mackail-Smith cleared off the line after Brighton flapped after one of our corners
We left the field having been totally in control however, at 1-0 there was always the nagging feeling that we hadn’t made this tell and that Brighton would improve. They did and in the second we were pushed back as the home side presumably took on board Gus Poyet’s half time advice to have a go. Coates didn’t help matters early on by making the schoolboy error of playing the ball across the face of his goal. Noone took advantage and rapped a shot against the bar. Later Sparrow got in a good position and should have made Reina work harder to make his save. Nonetheless were rode out the “storm” with relative ease and Kenny must have felt confident that extra time would not happen as he decided to give Gerrard a run out for the last twenty minutes or so.
I’m not sure if the captain’s return had any influence however shortly after he was introduced we put matters to bed. Bellamy fed Maxi who slipped in Kuyt whose cross shot, in a mirror image of the first goal, also found the net via the post.
Brighton pulled one back after the otherwise excellent Carragher fouled Vincente. Barnes belted the ball past Reina however, and despite the four minutes of added time, it was too late.
Brighton: Ankergren, Greer, Calderon, Vincelot, Cook, Navarro (Barnes 78), Sparrow (LuaLua 78), Noone, Bridcutt, Buckley (Vicente 60), Mackail-Smith Substitutes: Brezovan, Dunk, Taricco, Vicente, LuaLua, Kasim, Barnes
Liverpool: Reina, Coates, Carragher, Kelly (Flanagan 86), Robinson, Maxi, Spearing, Lucas, Suarez (Gerrard 75), Kuyt, Bellamy Substitutes: Doni, Wilson, Flanagan, Gerrard, Downing, Shelvey, Carroll