Liverpool seek Premier League tonic after cup scare
LIVERPOOL — Liverpool will hope to make it four wins in a row when they visit West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday after limping to a 1-0 victory against Hungarian champions Debrecen in Europe. "We're slowly getting back to where we want to be," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said after seeing his side struggle to victory over Debrecen in their opening Champions League Group E tie at Anfield on Wednesday. "It's three wins on the spin, hopefully we can make that four at West Ham," added the England midfielder. Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt scored the only goal against Debrecen, who were making their first appearance in the Champions League group stages. "The most important thing is to get the three points," Reds manager Rafael Benitez said after seeing Kuyt's goal in added time at the end of the first half secure the win. "People didn't know what to expect because they didn't know the other team, but they showed they're not bad," added the Spaniard who was celebrating his 300th game in charge of Liverpool. Attention now turns to Saturday and Liverpool's visit to West Ham. The Reds, boosted this week by a multi-million pound sponsorship deal signed with Standard Chartered Bank, have endured a mixed start to the new Premier League season. Liverpool have lost two of their opening five fixtures - the same number as during the whole of last season when they finished second to champions Manchester United. "Everyone knows we had a bad start... We are trying to get our confidence back," Kuyt said on Wednesday. Benitez began the match against Debrecen with the same side that had defeated Burnley 4-0 in the Premier League last weekend, which meant Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano started on the bench following a short spell out through injury. Israeli Yossi Benayoun, scorer of a hat-trick against Burnley, was involved in creating the goal before making way for Mascherano near the end. The Hungarians, backed by a few hundred noisy fans, defended solidly early on, restricting the home side to long-range strikes fired tamely wide of the visitors' goal. Debrecen grew in confidence as the first-half progressed and in the 30th minute Peter Czvitkovics forced Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal into a finger-tip save over his bar. It was a wake-up call for Benitez's players who fought back thanks to two strikes from Albert Riera but on each occasion the Spaniard's effort was well saved by Debrecen's goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic. Riera was at the heart of the action once more just before the break, firing in a low cross but Gerrard was unable to keep his shot on target. Liverpool finally opened the scoring moments before the end of the first half. Fernando Torres, collecting a through-pass from Benayoun, swivelled away from his marker on the edge of the Debrecen box, before unleashing a shot towards goal. Poleksic managed only to push the ball back into the path of Kuyt and the Dutchman slotted home from close range. Liverpool took the game to Debrecen in the second half as Gerrard shot a volley just over the bar and a Benayoun effort was punched away by the keeper after a mazy run from the diminutive midfielder. Debrecen might have snatched a shock equaliser near the end but French striker Adamo Coulibaly, finding himself free in the box after beating the offside trap, was unable to lob Reina rushing from his goal.
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