Kingston upon Hull: Michael Dawson, the Hull City captain, scored a goal that secured a 1-0 home win over Liverpool and had a significant impact on both ends of the Premier League table on Tuesday.
Hull City's English defender Michael Dawson (2R) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Hull City and Liverpool at the KC Stadium in Hull. Pic/AFP
This was Liverpool's game in hand over Manchester United and their failure to win it leaves Brendan Rodgers's team seven points adrift of the Old Trafford club with an inferior goal difference. Both of them now have four games to play and Liverpool's pursuit of a Champions League place looks to be over. "Our fight is to perform better through to the end of the season," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told the BBC.
"It was always going to be difficult for us (to make the top four). The opportunity was tough this year in terms of where we were at as a team." Hull, meanwhile, have moved above Aston Villa near the foot of the table and are four points clear of the relegation zone. With even a Europa Cup place far from certain, it will be scant consolation for Liverpool to know that few of their supporters were at the KC Stadium to witness the game which means their season is likely to end in disappointment.
Liverpool, frustrated on several occasions by 40-year-old goalkeeper Steve Harper, sold their allocation of 2,506 tickets, but more than half of them boycotted the game as a protest against being charged Â£50. Their absence, backed by both managers, represented the first significant step in a fans' fightback against admission prices.
It will not be the last. It is a long time since Liverpool had such a paltry number of followers at an away game, but another familiar face was also missing. Skipper Steven Gerrard, on the fringes of the action in the goalless draw at West Brom in their previous game, was replaced by Joe Allen and not even included among the substitutes.
The change initially did little to energise Liverpool in the wake of their lacklustre show against West Brom and they should have been behind after the seventh minute. Sone Aluko's excellent left-wing cross picked out Dame N'Doye, who placed his header too close to keeper Simon MIgnolet. But whenever Philippe Coutinho was involved Liverpool looked a threat and he forced a fine save from Harper after a well-worked corner in the 19th minute.
Hull were still the more adventurous team and Liverpool were stretched again in the 27th minute. Robbie Brady created the problem for Liverpool as he accelerated clear of Emre Can, who was employed at right-back. From Brady's cross, Jake Livermore's header was blocked by Mignolet and Aluko was inches away from hooking in the loose ball. Hull's breakthrough goal was delayed for only ten minutes, however.
Paul McShane's failure to control the ball inside the area reaped an unexpected benefit when it reached Ahmed Elmohamady, who had time and space to curl in a cross. Liverpool left three Hull attackers offside as the ball went into the danger area, but allowed Dawson to power past them and head beyond Mignolet. Liverpool, who had kept clean sheets in seven of their previous eight away games, were upset about the decision, but reacted in the right way in the closing stages of the half.
Henderson forced another smart save from Harper, then Glen Johnson surged to the byline and drove finally found a way past Harper, but the ball went across the face of the goal with no Liverpool able to get a decisive touch. Rodgers's team had far more possession than in the opening half, but created few chances, although Harper had to be alert to deal with a 63rd minute effort from Henderson.
The only other scare for Hull came near the end when substitute Adam Lallana's shot curled narrowly wide of the far with Harper, for once, beaten. But this was to be Hull's night as they managed back-to-back clean sheets for the first time in 18 months.