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Gerrard back as Liverpool sink Brighton in League Cup
Published : 21 Sep 2011 22:35:38
Craig Bellamy set Liverpool on course for a 2-1 victory over Brighton in the League Cup third round on Wednesday and there was more good news for the Reds as Steven Gerrard made his long-awaited return from injury as a late substitute.
Bellamy struck in the seventh minute at the Amex Stadium and the win was confirmed nine minutes from time when Dirk Kuyt scored Liverpool's second.
Ashley Barnes converted a 90th minute penalty for the home side after Jamie Carragher had fouled Vicente to set up a tense finish.
But Liverpool survived and, with captain Gerrard playing for 15 minutes in his first appearance after a six month injury lay-off with a recurring groin problem, Reds manager Kenny Dalglish was able to reflect on a successful evening.
Back to back Premier League defeats to Stoke and Tottenham had taken the gloss off Liverpool's start to the season, adding to pressure on an already testing tie for Dalglish's side.
And the way a strong visiting line-up approached the opening half confirmed they were anxious to avoid any slip-ups.
Liverpool forwards Bellamy and Luis Suarez would unsettle the home defence with their pace and movement and it took them just seven minutes to make the breakthrough.
Suarez, receiving the ball inside the Brighton box after a patient build-up, delivered a clever, stabbed pass to Bellamy at the near post and the Wales striker finished with a low shot from a tight angle.
Brighton were reeling and it looked as though it would simply be a matter of time before the game was put beyond the home side's reach.
Albion defender Romain Vincelot cleared off the line from Kuyt's 17th minute header eight minutes before Suarez missed the kind of chance he would normally convert, firing wide when confronted only by home keeper Casper Ankergren.
Anxious to make amends, the Uruguay striker came close to adding a second in the 31st minute when he rose to meet Bellamy's header and headed against the post.
The woodwork saved Brighton again five minutes before half time when Bellamy sent a powerful rising free-kick against the crossbar with Ankergren beaten.
Liverpool's Jay Spearing hit the woodwork but Brighton finished the half on a high when Craig Noone, the winger who worked on Steven Gerrard's house extension in a former career as a builder, fluffed a good chance.
Brighton boss Gus Poyet was frustrated at the interval and clearly got his message across to his players during the half time interval as the home side emerged a more formidable side after the break.
Noone struck the bar within seconds of the restart and while chances were limited, Albion took the game to Liverpool.
Poyet introduced Vicente for the former Spain international's first appearance since his unexpected arrival at the Amex Stadium as a free agent on transfer deadline day and the winger offered a hint of his quality when he broke beyond the Liverpool defence before shooting over.
But Poyet's side were unable to conjure an equaliser and when Kuyt finished from Maxi Rodgriguez's 81st minute pass, Brighton's hopes of an upset appeared to be over.
Barnes' penalty suggested a possible comeback but Liverpool held on.