Bellamy blitz ends awayday misery

Three days removed from an ordeal in a courtroom, Craig Bellamy put Wigan's appalling defence through one of their own in an extraordinary first half that saw him inspire Liverpool to four goals in 36 minutes en route to their first away victory of the campaign.

Bellamy, found not guilty of two charges of assault at Cardiff magistrates court on Wednesday, had been living under the cloud of the trial for six months and his manager, Rafa Benitez, had declared that he hoped its successful outcome would have the desired effect on his player. Never in Benitez's wildest dreams, however, could the Spaniard have imagined that Bellamy would respond quite like this. Two goals, an assist to Dirk Kuyt for the third - followed by Lee McCulloch turning a Steven Gerrard cross into his own goal - was a staggering return for a team that had not scored an away goal in open play for the previous 10 hours and 19 minutes.

'I was saying before the game that maybe after the problems he had, he could be a new player and he was fantastic for us,' said Benitez of Bellamy. 'He was always creating problems with his pace and for us, having a player with his different qualities, gives us other options.

'On Thursday he was in training and shooting and his accuracy was really good, he was always on target, always scoring. I said to him, "Keep doing the same and you will score lots of goals". I think he knew he needed to show people he is a good player and maybe his mind is clear now and it's easier for him.'

Bellamy, signed from Blackburn for £6 million this summer, took just nine minutes to underscore his manager's assertion. It was superbly taken, a long ball from John Arne Riise into the inside-left channel allowing the Wales international to shake off Matt Jackson, speed on into the area and place the perfect finish past Wigan's Chris Kirkland, the former Anfield goalkeeper.

Having waited that length of time for the proverbial 'bus', naturally the next one came along just a few minutes later, 17 to be precise, when Bellamy doubled the lead. Another clinical finish, this one owed everything to a superb instinctive volley forward by Gerrard as he intercepted Fitz Hall's headed clearance of a Luis Garcia through ball. Gerrard's pass was weighted superbly and allowed Bellamy to race clear of a pedestrian back four and score, right-footed, from 13 yards.

There might have been more for the visitors, Wigan being spared by a couple of questionable offside decisions going against Bellamy and their cause was not aided when they squandered two glorious chances to reduce the deficit. Just after the half hour, McCulloch blasted over from four yards after Jose Reina had saved well from a Paul Scharner header before Henri Camara did likewise after Reina denied Emile Heskey.

Predictably, the second half was a relative non-event, although Wigan wrapped up a miserable afternoon in the closing minutes with Heskey hitting a post and substitute David Wright blazing over.

'At least I'll be watching the cricket tonight,' said manager Paul Jewell sadly. 'Because I won't be sleeping tonight. We're disappointed but we'll live to fight another day. It was a surreal first half, Liverpool had four or five attempts on goal and we were 4-0 down. But if we defend like that we won't win any more games between now and the end of the season, that's for certain.'

Copyright - The Observer 

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