Late Kuyt strike sees Reds through

Liverpool 1 Sparta Prague 0 (Liverpool win 1-0 on aggregate)

Dirk Kuyt headed a late winner to snatch victory in Kenny Dalglish's first European tie as Liverpool manager tonight.

Kuyt finally broke the resistance of a determined Sparta Prague side with the only goal of a testing Europa League affair five minutes from the end of the second leg at Anfield.

Both sides had squandered numerous chances in a scrappy round of 32 encounter but Liverpool's superior quality was eventually rewarded by the hard-working Kuyt.

David Ngog, Joe Cole and Raul Meireles had also gone close in front of a sell-out 42,949 crowd which further underlined the gathering momentum of Dalglish's new regime.

Sparta, backed by 3,000 of their own raucous fans, contributed fully to an eventful, if low-quality, clash but were eventually undone as Kuyt profited from a late corner.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, absent for the two previous games with a groin injury, was not risked and his dynamism and precision was missed throughout.

Christian Poulsen, whose partner had a baby earlier in the week, made little impact in a central role while Cole, starting for the first time under Dalglish was quiet on the left.

The former Chelsea midfielder looked determined to kickstart his faltering Reds career, however, and broke clear early on to send over a looping cross which clipped the bar.

The opening stages were lively and suggested the game, which ultimately lacked quality, would be far more eventful than the drab first leg.

Liverpool appealed for a penalty in the second minute when a Meireles free-kick bounced and caught Manuel Pamic on the hand but nothing was given.

At the other end Libor Sionko headed over from a Kamil Vacek cross and a dipping shot from Vaclav Kadlec narrowly missed the target.

Both goalkeepers were tested by headers, Jose Reina first claiming a firm effort from Sinoko.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos then went close to handing Liverpool the lead when he rose to meet a Meireles corner but Jaromir Blazek saved well to his right.

Reina had a scare when he failed to claim a corner but Sionko was unable to take advantage and Meireles missed a good chance when he scooped a cross from the rampaging Martin Kelly over.

Blazek had an uncomfortable moment when he spilled a long-range shot from Cole, who had cut in from the left, but Liverpool could not capitalise.

Ngog tried his luck from distance as the ball dropped invitingly but miskicked as he turned to shoot.

Ngog had a better chance moments later as Kuyt cut inside to tee him up but the Frenchman chipped tamely at Blazek, who almost gifted a rebound opportunity to Cole but recovered.

Lucas also saw a 25-yard shot drift narrowly wide just before the interval.

Liverpool were forced to withdraw one of the first half's better players in Kelly at the start of the second period, but were able to replace the right-back with the experienced Jamie Carragher.

The hosts started brightly after the restart with Meireles volleying narrowly wide and then creating another attack with a superb long ball for Kuyt.

Kuyt raced on into the area and pulled back for Ngog but the lone striker again fluffed his shot.

Sparta also continued to threaten but Reina got down well to cut out a cross from Ondrej Kusnir.

Liverpool met more frustration as they tried to prise an opening with Kuyt having a shot blocked and Cole heading wide midway through the second half.

Liverpool pressed further with Meireles playing in Ngog but Blazek denied him.

Kyrgiakos was forced off for treatment after a clash of heads with Tomas Repka left him with a nasty cut above the eye.

He returned just as defensive partner Daniel Agger was forced off with injury and replaced by Martin Skrtel.

Kuyt, along with Meireles, had been one of Liverpool's most forthright players in the second half and his efforts were rewarded with his winner.

The Dutchman jumped above the defence five minutes from time to head firmly past Blazek and put the Reds into the last 16.

Cole should have added a second when he raced through on goal in injury time but sliced his shot wide.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee