Reds seal cup progression
Gerrard returns as Liverpool earn away victory at Brighton
Last Updated: 22/09/11 9:11am
Bellamy: Instrumental in Liverpool's win
Steven Gerrard returned to action as Liverpool sealed their progression to the fourth round of the Carling Cup with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Brighton at the Amex Stadium.
The visiting Reds took an early lead through Craig Bellamy, who was making his first start since returning to the club, with Gerrard making his long-awaited return as a second-half substitute.
Liverpool dominated the opening period but failed to capitalise on their chances, hitting the woodwork on three occasions as Luis Suarez, Jay Spearing and Bellamy went close to doubling their advantage.
Brighton finished the half the stronger and took that momentum into the second-half, but Dirk Kuyt's goal with nine minutes remaining appeared to kill the game.
Not quite, though, as a late penalty award against Jamie Carragher saw substitute Ashley Barnes pull a goal back but it was too little too late for the Seagulls.
Heading into the match Kenny Dalglish made seven changes to the side that started Sunday's 4-0 defeat at Tottenham, with summer signing Sebastian Coates handed his first Liverpool start.
Brighton, who face Leeds in the Championship on Friday evening, also made alterations, with Gus Poyet handing a full debut for Steve Cook as part of his five changes from the side beaten 1-0 at Leicester.
The third-round encounter was the pair's first meeting in more than 20 years and one that Liverpool started strongly.
Spearing blazed a long-range shot over in the fourth minute and only a last-ditch tackle prevented Maxi Rodriguez prodding goalwards after a melee in the box.
Liverpool's pressure paid dividends in just the seventh minute when Suarez poked the ball through to Bellamy, who finished neatly from a tight angle.
The visitors continued to attack after breaking the deadlock and Kuyt saw a fierce shot blocked by Gordon Greer.
The Dutchman almost snuck in at the back post soon after and then had a shot cleared off the line from the resulting corner.
The visitors' attacking intent had Brighton pinned back and they came agonisingly close to doubling their advantage in the 26th minute.
Poyet's defence was being given a torrid time by fellow Uruguayan Suarez, who shot inches wide when up against goalkeeper Casper Ankergren.
The 24-year-old again came close six minutes later, glancing an inswinging Bellamy free-kick just wide of the far post.
The Welshman saw a rasping 35-yard free-kick rattle the crossbar as half-time approached, before Ankergren was forced to tip Spearing's superb left-footed drive onto the post.
Despite Liverpool's dominance of the opening period, the Seagulls almost equalised with their first attack of the game but Martin Kelly's last-ditch tackle in the six-yard box thwarted the home side.
They looked rejuvenated after the break and two minutes in Noone's 25-yard curling effort hit the crossbar.
Jose Reina was well beaten by the former Liverpool junior but was on his toes to save from Matthew Sparrow from close range shortly afterwards.
Brighton continued to press forward but saw attacking threat Will Buckley forced off in the 60th minute with a knock, resulting in former Spain international Vicente Rodriguez coming on for his debut.
Liverpool made a change of their own with 16 minutes remaining as Gerrard made his long-awaited return from a groin injury in place of Suarez.
The south coast side continued to search for an equaliser but Kuyt seemingly put the match out of reach with less than 10 minutes remaining, latching onto Rodriguez's pass to beat Ankergren.
Substitute Barnes pulled one back from the spot in the 89th minute after Jamie Carragher was adjudged to have fouled Vicente, although the goal proved a mere consolation.