Late Kuyt goal earns Liverpool victory over United
Updated: January 28, 2012, 11:29
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LIVERPOOL, England(AP) Dirk Kuyt struck a dramatic 88th minute winner to give Liverpool a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup on Saturday and a place in the last 16.
The match between the two bitter rivals looked set for a replay after Park Ji-sung leveled for United in the 39th minute at Anfield after a rare goal by Daniel Agger had given Liverpool a 21st minute lead.
It was the first meeting between Liverpool and United since Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was handed an eight-game ban for racially abusing United defender Patrice Evra in a league game on October 15.
United's Antonio Valencia was denied by the woodwork in the first half, while Liverpool's Andy Carroll hit the bar in the closing moments of a thrilling encounter which passed off without major incident.
Victory over United came just days after Liverpool booked a place in the League Cup final at Manchester City's expense, and a week after the side lost 3-1 at Bolton.
"The week started badly for us at Bolton, but it's a fantastic credit to the players and how much pride they take in the club that they've got themselves back on track,'' said Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish.
"They've come out on the right side of two huge cup games.''
United manager Alex Ferguson meanwhile struggled to come to terms with his side's cup exit.
"We dominated the game it terms of possession,'' added Ferguson. "We did very well in that respect. But to lose the game is hard to believe.
"The players showed great respect to each other, there wasn't a bad tackle in the game.''
Such was the level of concern after what happened when the teams last met that both managers appealed for calm from supporters before the match. The fierce rivalry between Liverpool and United has existed for many years but the incident between Suarez and Evra only served to heighten tensions.
Evra, who captained United, was booed by the home fans every time he touched the ball as the match started amid an unpleasant atmosphere. But to the relief of both clubs, the real drama was on the pitch as Liverpool took the lead against the run of play before United hit back before the interval.
"There was a wee bit of banter between both fans which is brilliant because we wouldn't want to take that away, but at the end of the day I thought they were fantastic,'' Dalglish said. "The players were a great credit for that as well - none of them tried to do anything other than play football.''
Asked what he thought about Evra being booed, Dalglish said: "Are you winding me up? Why would I be disappointed for Patrice Evra? I used to be booed when I played.''
Evra did himself few favors when the France international fullback lunged on Maxi Rodriguez in the early stages. But referee Mark Halsey kept his cards in his pocket and instead dealt with the matter by dishing out a stern lecture to the United player.
In a frantic opening, Rodriguez forced goalkeeper David de Gea, recalled to United's side after being dropped for the last three matches, into a fourth minute save before United settled into their stride.
The visitors were missing some key players - Wayne Rooney, Nani and Phil Jones - due to ankle injuries but after veteran Ryan Giggs had forced Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina into his first save, Valencia was denied by the woodwork after a terrific 18th minute attempt.
United were beginning to take control but three minutes later Liverpool broke the deadlock through an unlikely source.
Agger has not scored in a Liverpool shirt since April 2010 but the former Brondby player leapt high above the United defense to nod Steven Gerrard's corner past De Gea.
Instead of building on their lead, Liverpool was content to sit back and was punished when Jose Enrique was hustled off the ball by Rafael da Silva, who set up Park to fire past Reina.
The game continued to swing from end-to-end.
Liverpool appealed for a penalty after Chris Smalling's failed attempt to clear inside his own area before Gerrard forced De Gea into a full-stretch save from a 65th minute free kick.
At the other end, Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel made a goal-saving clearance after Danny Welbeck looked certain to score after darting past Reina.
With a replay looming, Dalglish sent on Craig Bellamy, who scored the decisive goal against Manchester City in midweek to book Liverpool a place in the League Cup final.
But it was Kuyt - not Bellamy - who was Liverpool's hero this time as the Dutch striker beat De Gea at his near post following Andy Carroll's flick.
Carroll went close to a third when he headed against the top of the post in the closing seconds.