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Hull City Dent Liverpool’s Champions League Hopes

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LONDON: Hull City moved four points clear of the relegation zone with a win which leaves Liverpool almost certain to miss out on Champions League qualification.

Michael Dawson’s well-timed run and header before half-time deservedly secured the points which moved the Tigers above Aston Villa in to 15th.

Jordan Henderson threatened to level but saw a volley saved after the break.

The Reds failed to create a clear opening and are now seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United.

With just 12 points to play for, a second successive season in Europe’s elite competition is now surely beyond Brendan Rodgers’ side and a return of just four points from a possible 15 underlines the stuttering end to their season.

Hull, by contrast, have found solidity at the right time, earning back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since October 2013 as they put some daylight between themselves and Sunderland in 18th.

Indeed, another win for Steve Bruce’s side would equal their best Premier League points return of 37 and looks likely to be enough to secure another top-flight campaign as the sides around them find wins hard to come by.

Bruce’s side were comfortable throughout and though the visitors had 12 shots on goal, few were of serious threat and the sight of Mario Balotelli ambling off to be replaced after 65 minutes spoke volumes of Liverpool’s lack of cutting edge.

The Italian had just 22 touches and with no Steven Gerrard in the squad and Raheem Sterling barely in the game, only flourishes from the busy Philippe Coutinho threatened to change the outcome.

The Brazilian drew a smart save from Steve Harper in the opening period but Hull created better chances and were prevented a certain goal when Glen Johnson cleared off the line with Sone Aluko ready to tap home.

Liverpool have managed to keep 14 clean sheets this season, second only to Chelsea, and their defenders may point the finger at Balotelli who played Dawson onside for his first goal since New Year’s Day 2013.

Three home players appeared offside in the build-up to the goal but Dawson’s run was perfect and he guided a smart header home.

Liverpool’s away end had patches of empty seats with some fans protesting against Premier League ticket prices and Rodgers’ players could not reward those in attendance, though Henderson’s volley from Coutinho’s pass did work Harper.

Hull closed out just a second win in 20 attempts over Liverpool – a timely victory which poses serious questions of those around them at the bottom. BBC Sport

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