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Kuyt leads way as Reds beat Bolton
Published : 30 Jan 2010 17:14:47
Dirk Kuyt's 49th strike for the club and Kevin Davies' own goal either side of half-time eventually proved enough in a performance which was lacking a touch of class if not endeavour. Rafael Benitez's side are now unbeaten in six league games, in which they have conceded just once, and remain on course to deliver the manager's "guarantee" of Champions League football next season. It was also the first time this campaign they have shut out opponents on three successive occasions, which contributed to a fourth-successive home victory. Much of the pre-match focus had been on Juventus' interest in making Benitez their next full-time coach. His response to that speculation was to hint that the club's owners needed to match his ambitions in terms of finances for squad-building. And with captain Steven Gerrard shackled for long periods by the man-marking job of Fabrice Muamba the side needed inspiration from somewhere but struggled to find a cutting edge without star striker Fernando Torres, who is still several weeks away from fitness. That alone will have at least given one of those owners, the watching Tom Hicks, food for thought. It will have also given Benitez more ammunition in his bid to squeeze every last cent out of the Americans who have yet to fully back their manager with the finances he needs to compete with Manchester United, Chelsea and even Arsenal - never mind the likes of multi-billionaires Manchester City. When Gerrard did see the ball his back-heel from Jamie Carragher's pass released David Ngog in the area but his cross-shot from the byline looped up off Zat Knight and into the arms of Jussi Jaaskelainen. Wanderers were managing to crowd out Liverpool's tight passing game in and around the penalty area but when they did break free Emiliano Insua flashed a cross through the six-yard box with Kuyt just unable to reach. The hosts were indebted to Sotirios Kyrgiakos for clearing Lee Chung-Yong's shot off the line after the South Korean's diagonal run from the right took him past both centre-backs and goalkeeper Jose Reina, making his 100th consecutive Premier League appearance. Liverpool's pressure eventually paid off in the 37th minute with a move started by Albert Riera's inch-perfect crossfield pass to Insua on the left wing. The Argentinian defender crossed to the far post where Alberto Aquilani jumped highest to head back into the six-yard area, and Kuyt stabbed home through Gary Cahill's legs. Bolton thought they had won a penalty seconds before half-time when Lee tumbled in the penalty area under Aquilani's challenge but referee Steve Bennett booked the South Korean for diving. Eight minutes into the second half Ngog should have given Liverpool some breathing space but fluffed his big chance. Jaaskelainen saved Gerrard's first-time shot from Riera's cross but the young French striker bundled the rebound into the floor six yards out and it bounced off the outside of the post and went wide. Gerrard tested Jaaskelainen with a driven 25-yard shot which the goalkeeper parried low to his right before the replacement of Aquilani with Lucas led to the second goal. The Brazilian midfielder headed Riera's deep cross back for Ngog to lay the ball off to Insua who drove in a shot which was heading wide until it deflected off Davies to wrong-foot Jaaskelainen. Kuyt's late dribble left Knight on the floor and his cross had to be turned over the crossbar by Gretar Steinsson as the pressure continued on Bolton until the final whistle.