Kuyt at double as Liverpool down Spurs
© AFP

Dirk Kuyt scored twice as Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Anfield on Wednesday to move within a point of fourth-placed Spurs in the English Premier League.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has come in for heavy criticism, while the Reds' UEFA Champions League hopes have suffered blow after blow and they went into this match with star players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres missing because of injury. But despite once again fielding a team that was far from full strength, they took the lead through Kuyt's early strike.

The Dutchman added a second from the penalty spot in stoppage time to secure a significant victory that helped justify Benitez's claim of "guaranteeing" a top four finish that would secure UEFA Champions League football next season.  Tottenham improved after the break but failed to end a miserable run of winless games away to the 'Big Four' (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool) opposition that has now reached 66 games.

Liverpool had a minor scare just five minutes in as Pepe Reina took three attempts to gather a cross from Gareth Bale. But the goalkeeper came up with a long clearance that was flicked on by Kuyt to Alberto Aquilani.

The Italian just managed to tap the ball back to the Dutchman and Kuyt squeezed a shot past Heurelho Gomes into the corner to give the home side an ideal start. Tottenham were struggling to put together any sustained spell of possession but Aquilani almost let them in.

His loose pass flew straight to Bale and his swerving drive only just missed Reina's goal. After Javier Mascherano had tripped Peter Crouch, Tottenham had a free-kick in a good area. But from Bale's lofted delivery, Crouch was ruled to have fouled Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

Albert Riera's whipped free-kick from the right was desperately punched away by Gomes, but with the Brazilian stranded, Martin Skrtel failed to make contact with the follow up. Tottenham finally threatened when Wilson Palacios swapped passes with Jermaine Jenas and then slid through for Luka Modric, whose low effort was blocked by Reina.

Tottenham revival
Just after the restart, Jermain Defoe thought he had brought Tottenham level after a mix-up between Kyrgiakos and Reina but referee Howard Webb ruled out the striker's effort for obstruction. Then a Riera free-kick flew at goal with a bit more pace than Gomes had expected and landed on the roof of the net.

The game was far more open in the second period and Defoe laid off for Modric but the Croatian's low effort was held by Reina. Tottenham were far more of a threat after the break and quick passes from Palacios and Defoe created room for Jermaine Jenas to hit a powerful drive that Reina did well to get a hand to.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp tried to apply even more pressure on the hosts with striker Robbie Keane coming on to support Crouch and Defoe. Kuyt was growing more and more isolated and when Liverpool did manage a break away the Dutchman fed Philipp Degen, who chose to attempt to return the pass and the rare opportunity was gone.

With 20 minutes remaining, Aquilani's whipped free-kick was flicked on by Degen but Kuyt failed to get his volley on target at the far post. Riera also went close with a thumping drive from long range before Spurs' Alan Hutton drilled wide from Bale's cross at the other end.

But in added time, Sebastien Bassong clipped David Ngog in the area and Kuyt converted a twice-taken penalty to seal Liverpool's much-needed victory.