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Saturday 21st April 2007 @ 3 pm
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FA Premiership



Liverpool warmed up for the Champions League semi-final with Chelsea by beating Wigan to go four points clear of fourth-placed Arsenal.

Still not sure of Premiership safety Wigan came to defend, but the strategy unravelled from the moment Dirk Kuyt scored with a backward header.

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The Dutchman extended Liverpool's lead on 68 minutes when he turned swiftly in the box to fire a shot past Filan.

Liverpool keeper Jose Reina then denied Caleb Folan with a superb save.

This defeat pulled Wigan closer to the relegation zone with three games to go.

Wigan, who play West Ham next weekend, are now just three points ahead of Alan Curbishley's side.

The omens never looked promising for the visitors.

Paul Jewell's side have yet to score against Liverpool in the Premiership and in deploying Emile Heskey as a single striker Wigan gave the impression they were not banking on improving that miserable statistic.

Heskey did look at hopefully at referee Mike Riley when he went to ground after going shoulder-to-shoulder with Reina, but the former Liverpool stiker's appeal came to nothing.

Jewell introduced Henri Camara and then Caleb Folan in an attempt to bolster his attack and the latter forced Reina to make an instinctive save with a powerful header.

With one eye on Wednesday's game with Chelsea, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez left Steven Gerrard on the bench - the first time he has not started a Premier League game in a year.

But Gerrard's omission hardly mattered given Wigan's tortoise-like approach.

Before Liverpool took the lead Leighton Baines twice came to Wigan's rescue, scampering across from his left-back berth to clear the danger as Peter Crouch and then Kuyt threatened.

If only John Filan's reading of the game had been as astute.

The Australian rushed from his line to try and reach a Jermaine Pennant cross, but was left stranded as Kuyt beat him to the ball, flicking a header into the empty net.

Just the past the hour Camara briefly glimpsed goal when he got in front of the Liverpool defence when Baines crossed, but he was unable to get a touch on the ball.

While Wigan's attack tired to make best use of the scraps of service on offer, Kuyt and Crouch continued to feast on some lavish possession.

And midway through the second half Kuyt claimed his 13th goal of the season when he was set up by some neat combination play between John Arne Riise and substitute Craig Bellamy.

Kuyt used his body to shield the ball before swivelling to curl a shot past Filan.

Late on Kuyt missed an easy chance for his hat-trick with a weak header.

BBC Sport

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Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher (Agger 73), Hyypia, Riise, Pennant, Alonso, Zenden (Gerrard 70), Gonzalez, Kuyt, Crouch (Bellamy 63).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Mascherano.

Booked: Carragher, Alonso.

Goals: Kuyt 30, 68.

Wigan: Filan, Boyce, Jackson, De Zeeuw, Baines, Scharner, Taylor (Camara 46), Skoko, Landzaat (Aghahowa 70), Kilbane, Heskey (Folan 64).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Granqvist.

Booked: Scharner, De Zeeuw.

Att: 44,003.

Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).

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