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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Manchester United Vs. Liverpool Match Report

It had all been looking so rosy for United when Cristiano Ronaldo converted a first-half penalty, but an uncharacteristically nervy display at the back allowed Liverpool back into this match; and the subsequent 4-1 defeat means the Reds’ lead at the top is chopped to four points, albeit still with a game in hand.

Ronaldo put United ahead but three defensive mistakes all led to Liverpool goals, and Nemanja Vidic’s second-half sending off, which preceded the visitor’s third goal, put paid to garnering any points from this match. In truth, this wasn’t a great at the office for United, it never quite clicked into place. But one thing you can be certain of is that this defeat could well propel the Reds’ forward in the title race. This team responds well to set-backs, and this is only minor stumble.

United made three changes from the team that beat Internazionale in midweek. Whereas Sir Alex chose the experience of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs against Jose Mourinho’s men, the Reds boss favoured the energy and youthful vigour of Anderson and Ji-sung Park, while Carlos Tevez partnered Wayne Rooney in place of Dimitar Berbatov.

It must have stuck in throats of Liverpool’s players and fans when United were welcomed onto the field as “the Champions of England, the Champions of Europe, and the Champions of the World”. Such is United’s dominance these days that the roles are reversed from when Liverpool dominated at home and abroad years ago.

The shouts of “United, United” were deafening as the teams kicked off, and the sheer gravity of how potentially decisive this match could be added extra spice, though it was hardly needed. Liverpool, who knew that they had to win to keep alive their ailing title hopes, were forced into a change when Alvaro Arbeloa was injured during the warm-up. He dropped to the bench in place of Sami Hyypia.

United made the early running in a tight game, with Rooney threatening down the left channel, and Park’s shot deflected over by a desperate Jamie Carragher challenge. Liverpool started with a game-plan of containment, a 4-5-1 formation aimed at constricting United’s free-flowing football, but the Reds were urged on by the fans, the coaching staff and Rooney screaming at his team-mates to press forward. The start typified both team’s styles; United brooding with attacking intent, Liverpool patient and poker-faced.

But the visitors blinked first. Tevez slotted a pass through the channel to Park on 23 minutes, and the midfielder was wiped out by Pepe Reina – referee Alan Wiley had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Ronaldo stood poised ready to strike from twelve yards and his perfectly-placed kick was followed with a collective roar of approval and rousing “We shall not be moved” as Old Trafford bounced and rocked.

The lead lasted only five minutes, however, after a rare error from Nemanja Vidic, who failed to deal with a high ball forward from Reina. Whether it was the intermittent spring sunshine or indecision, he let the ball bounce and Fernando Torres nipped the ball off his toes. The Serb stumbled and Torres was left to slip the ball past the onrushing Edwin van der Sar. It was a frustrating leveller, largely undeserved and just as the Reds had appeared to take control.
seconds later Liverpool took the lead. Gerrard latched onto Torres’ pass and Patrice Evra brought him down. The Liverpool skipper calmly despatched his spot-kick, though Edwin guessed the right way.

In the second half, no doubt with Sir Alex’s words still ringing in their ears, the United players pressed forward, roared on by the Old Trafford crowd. Reina was twice lucky to escape after spilling crosses, once allowing the ball to rebound off his post, another dropped on the goal line. But neither occasion gleaned an equaliser. Nor did Ronaldo’s flashed cross on 63 minutes, or the return ball from Rooney which Tevez couldn’t quite reach. But United were definitely in the ascendancy.

Tevez had an even better chance on 70 minutes when Carrick’s lofted pass found him free in the area. He chested the ball down but could apply the finish. Shortly afterwards, United made a triple substitution with Berbatov, Scholes and Giggs coming on for Carrick, Anderson and Park. But United’s hopes of turning this match around were all but curtailed when Vidic was given a straight red card for hauling down Gerrard who was through on goal, and to make matters worse Aurelio curled the resulting free-kick into the top corner of van der Sar’s goal.

It all but snuffed out even the slimmest hopes of a Reds recovery and Andrea Dossena's late lob compounded matters and made this a day to forget. Liverpool may claim the bragging rights and a double over United in the league this season, but Sir Alex and co's sights are set on bigger prizes.

Manchester United Vs. Liverpool Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [1 - 4] Liverpool
23' [1 - 0] C. Ronaldo (pen.)
28' [1 - 1] F. Torres
44' [1 - 2] S. Gerrard (pen.)
77' [1 - 3] F. Aurelio
90' [1 - 4] A. Dossena