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Kuyt grabs hat-trick as Liverpool torture United

ESPN staff
March 6, 2011

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Manchester United's lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premier League will stay at an increasingly fragile-looking three points after a stunning Dirk Kuyt hat-trick proved Kenny Dalglish still has the Midas touch at Liverpool, inspiring a 3-1 victory on Sunday.

Lacking the services of the injured Rio Ferdinand and suspended Nemanja Vidic, United had no answer as Liverpool tore into their fierce rivals at Anfield, forging into a 2-0 half-time lead through a Kuyt brace. The Dutchman then completed his hat-trick in the second period, the first league treble by a Liverpool player against United since Peter Beardsley in 1990, although the man-of-the-match award arguably belonged to strike partner Luis Suarez for two brilliant assists.

Plenty of intrigue surrounded Liverpool's starting line-up as Reds fans awaited news over a possible debut for Andy Carroll, while Sunday morning rumours suggested Steven Gerrard may miss the game through injury. When the team-sheets were delivered, Gerrard started and Carroll took his place on the bench, while Sir Alex Ferguson reunited Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov up front for United.

Undoubtedly the better start was made by Dalglish's men as United's patched up defence got a working over in the first 15 minutes, with Maxi Rodriguez, Suarez and Kuyt all going close to finding an opening goal. The Kuyt chance was particularly interesting, with Raul Meireles nodding Suarez's super diagonal ball an inch out of the Dutchman's range at the far post.

United were surprisingly quiet, yet they signalled their threat with their first real effort of the game as Berbatov, picking the ball up 25 yards out, carved the outside of his boot across a volley to send the ball arcing against the outside of Pepe Reina's far post. Liverpool then had to deal with a setback midway through the first half when Fabio Aurelio had to be replaced by Sotirios Kyrgiakos, but far from ruining their momentum, the Reds responded with two goals before half-time.

The first was all about Liverpool's £23 million man Suarez, who showed the same jinking skills that he displayed for Glen Johnson's goal at West Ham as he beat three United defenders. Rafael da Silva, Michael Carrick and Wes Brown were all left for dead by the Uruguayan as he tip-toed along the byline before stabbing across for Kuyt to poke home from a yard.

Luis Suarez produced a magic performance for Liverpool © PA Photos

It was Kuyt's first goal against United at the 10th time of asking, and by the interval he had a second. This time the provider was United winger Nani, who inexplicably sent a header towards his own far post, where Kuyt reacted to send a powerful low header beyond Edwin van der Sar.

Still there was time before the break for a plethora of big calls to fall the way of referee Phil Dowd, with Jamie Carragher extremely fortunate not to see red for a horrendous shin-high challenge that ended Nani's involvement, before Rafael also only saw yellow for a reckless two-footed lunge on Lucas Leiva.

Ferguson responded by throwing Javier Hernandez on and moving Rooney out to the left, and the Mexican should have halved the deficit five minutes into the second period, getting across Krygiakos only to loop his effort wide of goal. United then missed an even better opportunity when Berbatov lined up a header two yards out, sending his effort directly into the chest of Meireles on the goal-line.

Liverpool were as dangerous as they have been all season though, with Meireles, Kuyt and Suarez excellent going forward, and more magic by the Uruguayan extended the lead to 3-0 on 65 minutes. Lining up a free kick, Suarez's curling effort proved too difficult to handle for Van der Sar, who spilt the ball for another easy Kuyt tap-in.

It was party time for Liverpool, whose fans serenaded Dalglish with a rendition of "Happy Birthday to you" in the week of his 60th, before Carroll made his long awaited debut to crown a near-perfect afternoon, only spoiled by a 92nd-minute consolation from Hernandez.

Steven Fletcher's late equaliser prevented Tottenham from moving up to fourth in the table as Harry Redknapp's side prepared for their midweek Champions League encounter with AC Milan with a hard-fought 3-3 draw against Wolves at Molineux.

Wolves, fighting for their lives at the opposite end of the table, made the brighter start and were rewarded for their dominance when Kevin Doyle glanced a header past a flapping Heurelho Gomes in the 20th minute.

Roman Pavlyuchenko's fine goal looked to have earned Spurs three points but Steven Fletcher had other ideas © PA Photos

Spurs, who were aiming to bounce back from their 3-1 defeat to Blackpool, levelled ten minutes later when Jermain Defoe rifled home from 25 yards and the England striker put the visitors ahead moments later with another fabulous finish, curling into the top corner.

Wolves regained parity when Doyle sent Gomes the wrong way from the penalty spot after Nenad Milijas had been pulled back by Alan Hutton in the area. Roman Pavlyuchenko kept the fans interested with a stunning finish shortly after the break to put Spurs back on top. Jermaine Jenas went on a jinking run and Pavlyuchenko took over, crashing a left-foot strike high into the net.

Richard Stearman looked to have drawn the home side level but his effort was ruled out by Mark Halsey, who adjudged that the defender had fouled the keeper. Wolves were not to be denied, however, the impressive Matt Jarvis picking out Fletcher at the back post, who angled his header brilliantly past a despairing dive from Gomes to earn Mick McCarthy's side a share of the spoils.

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