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25.2.07

Liverpool defeat Sheffield United 4-0

Liverpool didn't have enough with Barcelona. The Reds are in a very productive week, and they proved it by crushing Sheffield United 4-0.

"I think we're better playing now after Champions League matches," Dirk Kuyt admitted. His touch made light of Peter Crouch's early departure with a broken nose and cut requiring 11 stitches. "We showed strength again and we're really progressing."

Sheffield United had a very poor performance, and that was the main reason for Liverpool's victory.

Indeed, in crumpling to a fifth successive away defeat, they conceded one questionable penalty - well, there are going to be two or three every game if Bennett's clampdown on set-piece grappling becomes standard - and a clear-cut one. Twenty-five minutes, 2-0, game over.

Actually, Neil Warnock believes referees need advice from ex-players to humanise a job based on the rule book but his engaging allegation that Steven Gerrard, recipient of an even more contentious award in Sheffield in August, had pulled a gamesmanship trick was less damning than the summary of his own footballer.

"I think we were so negative in the first half," he expressed. "The penalties just knocked the stuffing out of us."

We must mention that there was promise from Javier Mascherano, a debutant whose composure in the midfield sitting role gave Gerrard freedom in his favourite position to cause untold damage.

The captain rounded the slaughter off with a lovely flourish and, on an afternoon when Jerzy Dudek played his first League game of the season and Hyypia scored his first Premier League goal of 2006-07, there were echoes of the more distant past.

What's more, the less prolific Andriy Voronin is being lined up from Bayer Leverkusen and Benitez recognises that a hole is looming. "Robbie is a really good finisher, the best we have," he admitted. "If he's not with us next season, we'll need to look for another like him."

The goal of Anfield side were scored by Fowler ('18 and '25), Hyypia ('71) and the captain Steven Gerrard.

Line-ups:

Liverpool (4-4-2): Dudek; Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher (Agger, 77), Riise; Pennant, Mascherano, Gerrard (Alonso, 74), Gonzalez; Crouch (Kuyt, 21), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Padelli (gk), Sissoko.

Sheffield United (4-5-1): Kenny; Kozluk (Kazim-Richards, 25), Jagielka, Lucketti (Morgan, 32), Armstrong; Geary, Tonge, Montgomery, Fathi, S Quinn (Stead, 66); Hulse. Substitutes not used: Davis, A Quinn.
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