Kuyt double lifts Liverpool spirits

Liverpool 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Football

Here, after many months of waiting, was a brief restoration of something they care to call the Liverpool Way in these parts. It is the quality manifest around Anfield Road in the decades when titles were won of everyone pulling together in a measured and dignified way.

It meant that a day which began with one of the club's American owners for once selecting the right time to speak publicly – George Gillett's affirmation of belief in Rafael Benitez revealed his awareness of the significance of the match – ended with the Spaniard's side one point off Tottenham and the top four, some ambition restored.

An abundance of flair there was not and Benitez's claim last night that "everybody knows Liverpool is a very good team" is highly questionable. But the qualities you don't find on teamsheets – spirit, resolve and indefatigability – saw them home and in a season when none of the once great sides are great, that might just be enough for Europe. They certainly saw off a Tottenham side vastly superior in technique and ambition, with two flying Croatian wingers and two strikers to match, but so poor in execution that Harry Redknapp's claim that he is at the heart of a "very open" chase for a top four place was equally open to question.

There was one moment of controversy – Howard Webb adjudged Jermain Defoe offside when he harried a ball off Pepe Reina, span with it and scored two minutes after the interval – but Redknapp really did not have the heart to argue that Defoe had been inactive when the ball first reached Reina from Sotirios Kyrgiakos' faltering back pass. "I'm going to sit up tonight reading the rulebook for a couple of hours," he said. "The ref and linesman weren't clear. They probably phoned a friend."

The night was about grander issues. Jamie Carragher, captain in Steven Gerrard's absence, has not had a fine season but he was the man for a match which even Benitez had admitted he could not contemplate the consequences of losing. Carragher restored Liverpool's pre-match huddle at Stoke on Saturday and led the players into it again at the beginning a first half which was typified by his last contribution to it – the extraordinary spectacle of him outpacing 20-year-old Gareth Bale to a ball which he crossed to win a corner.

There were other cameos – Carragher attempting to dribble the ball out of defence whilst pointing to the space he wanted utility right winger Phillipp Degan to run into will live in the mind for a while and perhaps inevitably, came to grief. A second-half cross which Albert Riera headed against the bar. This will be one of the games we will recall when Carragher has gone.

The "team of Carraghers" which the Anfield Road chant sang about was also there before their eyes, as some of the most pilloried Benitez recruits – Degen and Kyrgiakos – shut out Tottenham. "We've said before the squad is not as bad as people say it is," Benitez reflected of their contributions. Tottenham's night was summed up by the delay getting substitute Sebastian Bassong on the field. "He'd forgot to put his shorts on," Redknapp revealed. "I'm still trying to figure it out."

He also admitted that his was a golden chance to end the 17-year and 66-match run since Spurs last won away at one of the clubs who like to call themselves the "top four". "When you come here and see Liverpool without Gerrard, Torres, Johnson and Benayoun, you think you're not going to get a better opportunity," Redknapp said. He felt Spurs missed Aaron Lennon: "the one player who can go at people with pace" but there should have been enough available without him.

The night ran Liverpool's way from the sixth minute, when Dirk Kuyt's goal lifted a crowd intent on making the atmosphere one of European proportions. They did it the elementary way, Reina punting a long ball which Kuyt chested away to Alberto Aquilani and slotted right footed beyond Heurelmo Gomes, after the Italian had muscled his way across the box to return the pass. Kuyt's celebrations told the story of a man who had previously managed two goals in three months defying all the odds to finish against a side which had not conceded for 633 minutes.

The Dutchman resorted to type for most of the rest of the match, spurning three supreme chances, but when a momentous 91st minute event at Anfield went Liverpool's way for a change and one substitute, Bassong, was penalised for lunging at another, David Ngog, he buried the penalty. A retake was ordered for an encroachment of Liverpool players but that sailed home in the opposite direction. A perfect day for once.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1) Reina; Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Insua; Lucas, Mascherano; Degen (Darby, 89), Aquilani (Ngog, 79), Riera (Rodriguez, 81); Kuyt. Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Babel, Spearing, Pacheco.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2) Gomes; Corluka (Hutton, 61), Dawson, King (Bassong, 81), Bale; Modric, Jenas, Palacios, Kranjcar (Keane, 65); Crouch, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Pavlyuchenko, Giovani, Rose

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Liverpool Mascherano; Tottenham Jenas, Bale, Palacios.

Man of the match: Carragher

Attendance: 42,016