Hull City vs Liverpool match report: High-rise Michael Dawson provides Tigers with much-needed lift

Hull City 1 Liverpool 0: Defenders' headed winner eases relegation fears - and ends visitor's Champions League hopes

Simon Hart
Wednesday 29 April 2015 11:12 BST
Michael Dawson's winner was also his first goal for Hull
Michael Dawson's winner was also his first goal for Hull (Getty Images)

Any realistic hopes Liverpool might have had of Champions League qualification vanished on the banks of the Humber last night as Hull City earned a victory of huge significance to their prospects of Premier League survival.

Michael Dawson’s first-half header earned Steve Bruce’s side their second win in four days and lifted them above Aston Villa into 15th place – and four points clear of the trapdoor with four games remaining.

It was a deserved victory that continued a dismal run of form for Brendan Rodgers’ visitors, who have now taken just four points from the last 15 available in the league as well as falling meekly to Aston Villa at Wembley in the FA Cup.

A win at the KC Stadium would have lifted the Merseysiders within four points of Manchester United but instead they remain seven adrift and a team missing the sidelined Steven Gerrard now face a fight with Tottenham for fifth place – and a Europa League spot – having rarely looked like opening up a well-organised Hull side.

Michael Dawson heads home Hull's winner
Michael Dawson heads home Hull's winner (PA)

“We are staying up” was the chant at the final whistle and the way Bruce and his players celebrated underlined how important this was to them. “To get back-to-back victories at this stage is crucial but we still need a couple of results,” said Bruce. “I don’t think 34 points is enough but make no mistake, we’re in a better position than four days ago.”

The mood of the Hull manager contrasted starkly with that of Rodgers, who said afterwards he had reminded his players in the dressing room that they “have an obligation to fight right to the very end” of the season.

With the notable exception of Philippe Coutinho they looked short of ideas and Rodgers admitted: “We never really looked like scoring a goal to be honest.”

Hull, by comparison, looked buoyed by last Saturday’s win at Crystal Palace and Dame N’Doye, their scorer at Selhurst Park, might have given them an early head but put a free header too close to Simon Mignolet from the tricky Sone Aluko’s left-wing cross. Jake Livermore also tested Mignolet with a header with Aluko hooking the loose ball wide.

Hull were organised and committed and eventually, eight minutes before the break, they had their reward as Ahmed Elmohamady swung the ball back in from a half-cleared corner and Dawson struck. There were three Hull players standing in offside positions but the defender’s own run was perfectly timed as he arrived to head the ball beyond Mignolet.

Bruce said: “When you look at it, Balotelli is playing Dawson onside and the way the law is today, if they are not interfering which none of them were – they were all walking back out the penalty area – then for me the referee and linesman have got it right. But it is one of those grey areas.”

It was Dawson’s first league goal for Hull, which is as many as Mario Balotelli has for Liverpool. Starting successive league games for the first time since November, the Italian’s most notable moment was a rather signposted backheel attempt from a Raheem Sterling cross straight at Steve Harper. His hunger and sense of anticipation were notable for their absence when he failed to react to Glen Johnson’s driven ball across the face of goal on the stroke of half-time.

Rodgers said the story of Liverpool’s season was this lack of a “reference at the top end of the field that gives the other players the confidence and movement to create opportunities”, adding: “Our struggles tonight were what they’ve been for the big part of the season in terms of that creativity and scoring goals.”

One sobering statistic for Liverpool fans in the build-up to last night’s game was that yesterday was 25 years to the day since the championship flag last fluttered over Anfield. Margaret Thatcher was still prime minister and Man United had just completed their own quarter-century title drought.

Steve Bruce's side are now four points clear of the relegation zone (Getty)
Steve Bruce's side are now four points clear of the relegation zone (Getty) (Getty Images)

In the intervening years Liverpool have spent an estimated £770million on 190 players and the £16m blown on Balotelli must rate among their worst deals. That was the verdict of the Hull fans too who took time out from their intermittent songs of protest against club owner Assem Allam to chant “What a waste of money” at Balotelli when he was later replaced by Rickie Lambert in a double substitution that also brought on Adam Lallana for Jordon Ibe.

The Liverpool fans who did make the journey to the KC Stadium – and there were plenty of empty seats in a protest at ticket prices – at least saw Coutinho shine. The little Brazilian almost produced a moment of magic when cutting across the box to meet a low Jordan Henderson corner with a fine strike that Harper reacted sharply to stop with the game goalless.

The 40-year-old Hull goalkeeper saved well too from Henderson’s second-half volley, with Coutinho the supplier with a lovely ball. Despite his promptings, though – which were in marked contrast with another quiet outing from Raheem Sterling – there was no way through and Hull had three more precious points.

Man of the match Dawson.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee L Probert (Wiltshire).

Attendance 24,843.

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