Gerrard finds his form to feast on Wolves
Liverpool 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0: Talisman inspires Liverpool who are made to struggle again until red card rips the heart out of McCarthy's men
Sunday 27 December 2009
Liverpool had to wait until Wolves were down to 10 men before they could convert their dominance into a lead but it will take small steps like this to get their season back on track.
The final score is all that matters but it should not mask just how hard Liverpool found it to break down their opponents, who were reduced to 10 men just after the restart when Stephen Ward was eventually given a second caution. Referee Andre Marriner originally wrongly showed Christophe Berra a yellow card.
Gerrard, who discussed his poor form with manager Rafael Benitez during the week, made the breakthrough with his first goal from open play in 13 matches, before Yossi Benayoun scored Liverpool's second.
The England midfielder was adamant that Liverpool's patience was rightly rewarded despite the mounting tension inside Anfield.
"It was all about waiting for that breakthrough," Gerrard said. "We were nervous at times and the crowd were getting on our backs and it was important that we just kept going. We had belief it would come and it did.
"When you're not getting the results that you expect, it's always going to affect confidence and we want to put it right. The players are hurting at the moment but we're fighting and we've got the confidence that we will turn it around. With the attitude that we showed we'll slowly move up that table and we know where we want to be."
Making his first start in the Premier League, Alberto Aquilani enjoyed a steady performance and his aggressive challenge on Karl Henry set up Liverpool's first decent chance, which saw Gerrard's bobbling effort pushed away by Wolves goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who also pulled off a good save from Fernando Torres.
Matthew Jarvis has enough pace to concern even Glen Johnson and the Wolves winger crossed from the left for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, whose shot on the turn was grabbed by Pepe Reina.
The Spaniard was forced into more action when the promising Nenad Milijas hit a free-kick that was slapped over the bar and from the corner that followed, an unmarked Ebanks-Blake missed the target from five yards.
Referee Marriner had a fortunate escape five minutes after the restart when he mistakenly booked the wrong player. Ward had been booked moments before, for pulling Yossi Benayoun's shirt, but when he tripped Lucas Leiva, Marriner showed Berra the yellow card.
Reina ran the length of the pitch to lead the Liverpool protests and after consulting his linesman, Marriner corrected himself and sent Ward off.
It did not take long for the hosts to make their numerical advantage count, with Emiliano Insua tearing down the left and sending over a fine hanging cross that allowed Gerrard to shrug off the back-tracking Milijas to firmly head into the corner of the net.
Benayoun made it two when he collected Fabio Aurelio's deep cross from the left and beat Hahnemann thanks to a deflection from the substitute George Elokobi.
Mick McCarthy felt that fourth official Phil Dowd was unsure who had committed the foul that led to Ward being sent off and claimed Liverpool's bench influenced Dowd before he passed the information on to Marriner. McCarthy, who applauded Benitez ironically, said: "He [Marriner] got the right player but he got enough flipping assistance didn't he? They were in Phil Dowd's ear and he didn't know who it was.
"I don't know if Phil Dowd told the referee who it was and if referees can get assistance from the fourth official, then perhaps Ireland should still be in the World Cup."
With Aston Villa to come on Tuesday and a home game with Tottenham after that, Benitez hopes this is the beginning of a revival.
"We had to win," he said. "We won, a clean sheet, two goals, some chances and we have to go forward. The main thing was to get three points. We will see if we can beat Aston Villa and stay closer. We were trying to do well but to win. We have done this."
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Hahnemann
Match rating: 6/10
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