Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish asked, 'Why do you want to watch Brighton?' in a tongue-in-cheek post-match interview, but the Championship side provided plenty of evidence in a spirited second-half performance.
Breakthrough: Liverpool celebrate Craig Bellamy's opening goal against Brighton in the Carling Cup
MATCH FACTSBrighton: Ankergren 7; Calderon 6, Greer 6, Cook 7, Vincelot 6; Buckley 8 (Vicente 60 6), Bridcutt 6, Navarro 6 (Barnes 78), Noone 8; Sparrow 6 (LuaLua 78), Mackail-Smith 6.
Subs not used: Brezovan, Dunk, Taricco, Kasim.
Booked: Vincelot, Navarro, Sparrow
Goal: Barnes pen 90
Liverpool: Reina 6; Kelly 6 (Flanagan 86), Coates 6, Carragher 7, Robinson 6; Kuyt 7, Spearing 6, Lucas 6, Rodriguez 6; Bellamy 9 Suarez 7 (Gerrard 75 6).
Subs not used: Doni, Carroll, Downing, Wilson, Shelvey.
Booked: Spearing, Lucas
Goals: Bellamy 7, Kuyt 81
Man of the match: Craig Bellamy
Referee: Michael Oliver
Craig Bellamy's early goal and Liverpool's enthralling display in the first 45 minutes, in which they hit the woodwork three times, could have condemned Brighton to a heavy defeat. But, inspired by Steven Gerrard's former roofer, Craig Noone, the newly promoted club pushed Liverpool all the way before succumbing to Dirk Kuyt's late second goal. Even then, there was still time for a consolation when Ashley Barnes scored from the spot.
There were encouraging signs that Liverpool's wounds from Sunday's 4-0 mauling at Tottenham Hotspur are beginning to heal and Gerrard made his return in a red shirt after six months out with a groin injury as a 75th-minute substitute.
Dalglish said: 'I thought our first-half performance was fantastic; the way they responded to the disappointment we all shared on Sunday. If Sunday wasn't a disappointment to anyone connected with Liverpool, I don't think their heart's in the right place. Getting Steven back is like a new signing for us. '
With no European football this season, the Carling Cup is a competition Liverpool are not taking lightly.
The squad is stronger this year than last, too; giving Dalglishscope to make seven changes from the weekend and still field a front four of Bellamy, Luis Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez and Kuyt.
Pulling the trigger: Bellamy scored inside seven minutes to put Liverpool in front
Bellamy was the stand-out performer, breaking the deadlock after seven minutes when he darted on to a Suarez pass and shot across Casper Ankergren into the far corner.
Dalglish said: 'I thought Craig was fantastic. He just loves playing football. He's a supporter of the Football Club, which sometime sounds a bit sickly, but he actually is, and he wants to do the best he possibly can.'
Tussle: Liverpool's Lucas Leiva battles with Brighton's Alan Navarro (left) as Liverpool edged to victory
Noone, who spent three years at Liverpool from the age of eight, enjoyed a lively night against his former club and was rewarded with Gerrard's shirt after the final whistle. 'He's a great Scouser and he did a great job on my house,' commented Liverpool's No 8.
But as Brighton pushed for an equaliser, they were undone by a second Liverpool goal. Bellamy caught them on the break and fed Rodriguez. The Argentinian found Kuyt and the Dutchman slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Return: Steven Gerrard made an appearance in the second half after his injury woes
Yet discipline once again got the better of Liverpool, who had two players sent off on Sunday. Jamie Carragher was judged to have brought down Vicente Rodriguez, impressive in making his Brighton debut, and fellow substitute Ashley Barnes dispatched a powerful right-foot penalty past Pepe Reina.
Poyet said: 'It was an easy meeting at half-time. There were too many players desperate to play today. But I'm very pleased with their response.
'We played an unbelievable second half against top class opponents. It's the first time I can say I'll go home happy losing, and I never say that.'
Close: Brighton's Craig Noone (left) cracked a shot against the bar as the home side sought a way back
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