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20:52 26th December 2009

Anfield Agony

Liverpool 2 (Gerrard 62, Benayoun 70)

Wolves 0

After a disciplined and impressive opening 45 minutes against Liverpool, the controversial sending off of Stephen Ward eight minutes after the interval changed the course of the game and goals from Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun ended Wolves' hopes of a positive outcome.

Wolves were unchanged and defended the Anfield Road end of the ground that housed 3,000 travelling fans as Liverpool kicked-off.

Just 15 seconds into the game Nenad Milijaš fouled Fernando Torres 25-yards out from the Wolves goal. Fabio Aurelio took the free-kick which was easily claimed by Marcus Hahnemann.

The home defence eventually cleared Wanderers initial attack which involved Matt Jarvis and Ward on the left, before Glen Johnson chipped the ball wide of the far post after he had cut into the box at the other end.

Hahnemann had to dive to take a low long-range effort from Gerrard, and then the keeper had to push over a rising drive from Torres who had cut into the left of the box and turned inside Richard Stearman to work a shooting angle.

Whilst most of the attacking play was coming from The Reds, the Wanderers defence was holding firm although there was a moment of danger after Emiliano Insua hit a low cross that went through the heart of the goalmouth before being deflected behind.

Milijaš hit the ball into The Kop from the edge of the box after Jarvis headed a Stearman cross into his path, and seconds later Hahnemann took a driven cross from Gerrard under the crossbar.

Pepe Reina fingertipped a Milijaš free-kick over the bar after Daniel Agger had fouled Kevin Doyle near the left-hand corner of the home area. From the corner conceded, taken by Milijaš, the ball went behind off the shoulder of Doyle who looked to be unsighted by Jody Craddock who had run in at the near post.

Milijaš figured again when he dragged a shot wide after Doyle had crossed with an overhead kick.

In the 28th minute Lucas was lucky to escape with only a rebuke after a nasty looking challenge on Ward.

Torres did have the ball in the Wolves net but the whistle had already gone for offside, then Reina plucked the ball out of the air before Sylvan Ebanks-Blake could reach it after Kevin Foley had hooked Ward's cross back into the middle.

Just before the break Hahnemann made a fine save to keep out Johnson's drive, and a Milijaš free-kick was cleared after the Serb had been fouled by Lucas.

Half-Time: Liverpool 0 Wolves 0

The second-half began with a chance for Benayoun but he failed to control Insua's cross, then Ward was yellow carded for tugging at Benayoun's shirt.

There was a chance for Milijaš after a centre from Ebanks-Blake but he headed wide. Hahnemann then had to dive low to his left to keep out a low shot from Gerrard.

But the game swung in the Merseysiders favour in 53rd minute when, amid shambolic scenes, Ward was sent-off. He made the slightest of contacts on Lucas who appeared to go to ground easily.

The referee at first waved the yellow card at Christophe Berra sparking protests from the home players including keeper Reina who ran the length of the field to register his opinion.

After consulting his linesman the referee then waved a second yellow at Ward and then the red. Despite the confusion, given the nature of Ward's offence against a player whose first-half challenge on him went unpunished with regards to a card, it must have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the away fans as well as the Irish defender.

George Elokobi replaced Doyle as Mick McCarthy made adjustments to his side, but it made little difference as Liverpool moved into a 62nd minute lead.

Insua crossed from the left and Gerrard ran in to power a header into the net.

Further substitutions followed with Michael Mancienne going on for Milijaš and Chris Iwelumo for Ebanks-Blake.

A second home goal arrived in the 70th minute when Benayoun took control of the ball in the Wolves box before hitting a shot that was deflected over the head of Hahnemann by the leg of Karl Henry.

Hahnemann made another class save to keep out a Benayoun header after Johnson had supplied the cross but at the other end, Reina, who was booed by the Wolves fans behind him every time he touched the ball after his earlier protestations, had little to do until the final whistle.

Liverpool:Reina, Johnson, Aquilani (Pacheco 85), Agger, Gerrard (capt), Torres, Aurelio (Kuyt 76), Benayoun (Spearing 89), Lucas, Insua, Carragher.

Unused subs: Cavalieri, Ngog, Darby, Skrtel.

Wolves: Hahnemann, Stearmen, Ward, Foley, Craddock, Berra, Milijaš (Mancienne 62), Henry (capt), Doyle (Elokobi 58), Ebanks-Blake (Iwelumo 67), Jarvis.

Unused subs: Hennessey, Surman, Maierhofer, Castillo.

Booking: Ward (48, 53 - fouls).

Sending-Off: Ward (53 - two bookable offences).

Referee: A. Marriner.

Attendance: 41,956.

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.