Manchester United came from a goal down to defeat an impressive 10-man Liverpool 2-1 on an emotional day at Anfield.
Liverpool had been firmly in charge until Jonjo Shelvey was rightly sent off for a poor challenge on Jonny Evans six minutes before halftime. The home side continued to cause United problems, though, and even took the lead through a fine Steven Gerrard strike straight after the restart. But United finally made the extra man count as Rafael produced a wonderful goal before Robin van Persie converted a controversial penalty.
It will be a tough loss for Liverpool to take as they continue to search for their first victory of the season.
Following an emotional tribute before kickoff to the 96 fans who lost their life at Hillsborough in 1989, the Anfield crowd got passionately behind their team and Liverpool’s players responded accordingly.
For the bulk of the opening period the home side dominated as United’s midfield of Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs struggled to gain a foothold. The Welshman did provide United’s one bright moment of the first 45 minutes, though, as he controlled a Shinji Kagawa pass on the edge of the box, before striking a fine half volley that just missed the angle of post and cross bar.
It was Liverpool that were in the ascendency, however, with United’s defense, in the absence of Nemanja Vidic, also struggling particularly with the movement of Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan almost created the opening goal as dinked the ball across from the left forcing Anders Lindegarrd to dive and try and turn the ball away, forcing Rafdael to make a crucial header to prevent a simple finish for Fabio Borini.
Perhaps the best chance of the first half fell the way of Gerrard. A well-orchestrated short corner gave Gerrard the chance to shoot at near post, but the midfielder side-footed his effort into the side netting.
But, after Suarez and Raheem Sterling had further efforts blocked by United’s defenders, Liverpool almost undid all their positive work with one moment of lunacy.
Perhaps riled up by the electric atmosphere, Shelvey went in high with a dangerous lunge on Evans. After appearing to consult with his assistants, referee Mark Halsey pulled out the red card.
The numerical disadvantage initially didn’t appear to unduly affect Liverpool. Right at the end of the half, Joe Allen found Fabio Borini bursting down the left of the box and from the byline the Italian pulled it back, but couldn’t find a teammate.
Inside the first minute of second half, Liverpool finally got the breakthrough their play warranted. Half-time substitute Suso supplied the cross from the left that Rio Ferdinand headed out to Glen Johnson on the edge of the box. Another replacement, Paul Scholes made a challenge but could only send the ball into the path of Gerrard, who had time to chest the ball down before producing a fine left-footed volley into the bottom corner.
Liverpool’s deserved lead would crucially last just five minutes. Rafael received the ball just inside the area on the right after a chest down from Kagawa and from a difficult angle produced a wonderful curling effort with his weaker left foot in off the far post.
Despite the setback, Liverpool far from faded away in the match. First Suarez was unlucky not to be given a penalty after Evans stuck his foot in late to bring down the lively forward. Minutes later Suarez threatened again, this time with a finely struck shot from 20 yards that forced Lindegaard to get down smartly to his right to block one-handed.
To the crushing disappointment of the majority inside Anfield, United’s numerical advantage finally told as they won a penalty following a fast paced counter. Valencia had oodles of time in the box after surging forward from his own half and just as he was about to pull the trigger Glen Johnson came in from behind and the Ecuador international tumbled under the challenge. There looked to be only minimal contact and with Valencia appearing to be going down before the challenge, Liverpool's protests were understandable.
After an extended delay while treatment was given to Daniel Agger, Van Persie stepped up and confidently put the ball to Pepe Reina’s left with the goalkeeper frustrated that his hand couldn’t keep the ball out.
Still Liverpool came back and had a fine chance to get back on level terms. Johnson crossed from the left and fellow full back Martin Kelly put his header wide from just six yards out. But it wasn't to be as United ended their poor recent record at Anfield and moved up to second place in the Barclays Premier League.