Liverpool 3 Wigan Athletic 2 : Kuyt rises to the occasion for Liverpool

Dutchman's scissors kick helps Benitez's men keep pace at the top after Valencia red card turns game

The Liverpool programme is, as you would expect, on message. "Impossible is nothing" it preaches in a style that would win nodding respect from Peter Mandelson, and to be fair to the team they are doing their utmost to live up to the slogan.

After a last breath winner against Manchester City in their previous match, they achieved this victory over Wigan Athletic with a goal scored with the relative comfort of five minutes to go. Relative being the apposite word, because this was a desperately close thing.

Behind to two goals from Amr Zaki - the second a beautifully executed scissors kick - Liverpool clawed themselves back to points parity with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League with second half goals from Albert Riera and Dirk Kuyt, who also scored in the first half.

It was a harsh outcome for the visitors who were the better team in the fist half and would have fancied their prospects of at least holding out for a draw but for the sending off of Antonio Valencia for two bookable offences with 16 minutes to go.

That proved to be the turning point, and one vigorously contested by the Wigan manager Steve Bruce who believed both cautions were wrong, particularly the first when Valencia was booked for encroaching at a free-kick. "We have been harshly treated and robbed in my opinion," he said. "Xabi Alonso pretended to take the free-kick and our players tried to block him which is normal. But Valencia did not encroach until the ball is kicked. He was going backwards and sideways to try to get to the ball but not forward. That was a big, big decision that the referee got wrong."

Bruce estimated that Wigan were the better side for 70 minutes and it was difficult to argue with him. Wilson Palacios and Lee Cattermole eclipsed Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso's usual dominance at Anfield and the soundtrack for the first half was Jamie Carragher's booming instructions to his stretched back four.

His guidance was followed more or less until the 29th minute when a crass error gave Wigan the lead. Reina passed to Daniel Agger, who lazily turned with the ball only to find Zaki bearing down on him. Even then the Danish centre-back had the chance to hoof the ball clear, but he tried to dribble his way out of trouble, was caught in possession and Zaki shot into the corner of the net with a sniper's precision.

Agger made amends eight minutes later with a run that began midway in his own half. Wigan retreated, he rolled forward and, after he had exchanged passes with Andrea Dossena, he was suddenly in a position to cut the ball back to Kuyt, who beat Chris Kirkland with a low shot from eight yards.

Anfield relaxed, Liverpool began to purr and Kuyt almost scored again with a thunderous shot from 20 yards that thumped against the Wigan bar. The scare was over surely? Not with Zaki lurking.

With the game entering stoppage time before the interval there seemed little danger as Agger and Dossena shepherded Valencia towards the corner flag. The winger from Ecuador escaped this trap thanks to a combination of his trickery and a lucky rebound, however, and his cross looped to the far post where Zaki leapt and in mid-air hit a scissors kick beyond Reina's dive. It was a brilliant piece of improvisation and Zaki deserved every bit of milked applause as he race the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Wigan fans.

Titus Bramble hit a post in the 55th minute and Wigan were looking comfortable until a lunge from Paul Scharner on Robbie Keane on the edge of the Wigan area led to a bout of pushing between players in the wall that culminated in Valencia getting booked for charging the free-kiick. Tempers flared and within seconds Valencia jumped into a tackle with Alonso, got his second caution and was sent off.

With a numerical advantage, Benitez made the gambler's throw of withdrawing both fullbacks for Yossi Benayoun and Nabil El Zhar - "We had to do something," he said - and the latter was instrumental in Liverpool's second goal, after 80 minutes. Riera passed to the left, El Zhar pulled the ball back and Riera drilled the ball low into the corner.

Liverpool were charging now and they got their winner with five minutes to go. Jermaine Pennant crossed from the right, Kuyt excecuted a scissors kick that lacked the grace of Zaki but got enough purchase on the ball for it to hit the ground with enough force for it to bounce over Kirkland's dive.

"Kuyt is a player every manager would want in his squad," Benitez said. "We have been talking about him not scoring in the Premier League but today he scored twice. His understanding with Robbie Keane was very good." Could Liverpool keep doing the improbable? "I'll talk to my doctor,: he replied.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'