Liverpool 3 Wigan Athletic 0: Crouch ends nightmare

Liverpool striker breaks duck after early anticlimax
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The Independent Football

It had to end sooner or later and yesterday it finally did. But as for exactly when, that remains a matter of conjecture. Peter Crouch had not scored for almost seven months and 22 matches since converting a penalty for his former club Southampton against Crystal Palace back in May.

When the first 11 minutes had elapsed at Anfield yesterday it completed a total of 24 hours without a goal for the England forward. But eight minutes later he was running the entire length of the pitch in celebration as Liverpool took the lead in bizarre fashion. Crouch's shot from 20 yards was blocked at source by Arjan De Zeeuw, sending the ball looping towards the goal.

It should have been a routine tip over the crossbar for the Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Mike Pollitt but he misjudged the trajectory of the ball and succeeded only in helping it into the net. The Dubious Goals Committee will doubtless, in due course, spend hours deciding who the goal will be credited to - there are three potential outcomes - but Liverpool's second was more clear-cut and belonged to Crouch.

Three minutes before half-time he sprung Wigan's offside trap and calmly lobbed Pollitt. His goal(s) helped Liverpool to record a sixth successive win and an eighth consecutive clean sheet. Only rarely were they discomforted by a Wigan side that have now followed six straight wins with three defeats.

As in their previous two matches, the Premiership newcomers contributed to their own downfall. Against Arsenal the goalkeeper John Filan was at fault and last week against Spurs De Zeeuw was culpable for the opening goal. Pollitt can now be added to that list, even though he was otherwise excellent.

While Wigan have many qualities, as their manager Paul Jewell made clear afterwards, they cannot afford to give the better Premiership sides a goal start.

"It was hard work watching that first-half performance," said Jewell. "Normally we give everything but not today and we let Liverpool win very easily."

Harry Kewell should have opened the scoring in the first five minutes and Steven Gerrard had a shot well saved by Pollitt before Liverpool took the lead.

Wigan's only attempt of note in the opening period came when De Zeeuw's header from a Jimmy Bullard corner flicked off the top of the crossbar.

Their best spell came early in the second half, during which Bullard wasted an outstanding chance. Roberts held the ball up inside the area before setting the midfielder up but his side-foot shot was weak and allowed Jose Reina to save.

Minutes later Luis Garcia added the third, chesting in Fernando Morientes' header from a Gerrard corner as Liverpool finished the game in total control.

"It was two goals for Crouch," said Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, emphatically. "I was recently at a meeting in Geneva discussing this and we decided that when the striker has had a shot then it's his goal.

"It was clear on the pitch with the reaction of the players and the crowd what it meant. But as long as we are winning it doesn't matter whether Peter Crouch scores or someone else."