By Lee Savery
A Robin van Persie penalty snatched victory for Manchester United on an emotional afternoon at Anfield.
The first game at Anfield after the the publication of a report into the deaths of 96 supporters on that fateful day at Hillsborough in 1989. Sir Alex Ferguson had called for respect from the fans with the club showing their own respects with United legend Sir Bobby Charlton carrying on flowers to give to Liverpool legend Ian Rush just as Ryan Giggs let out 96 red balloons along with Steven Gerrard. The pre-match handshake between Luis Suarez & Patrice Evra also passed without any controversy.
With the sentiments well respected by all, a game of football began. However, the occasion had an effect on both teams during a lacklustre first half. United were sloppy in possession with Liverpool having an element of control without really threatening apart from an early well worked corner that saw Gerrard hit the side-netting.
With the half of football dwindling to half time, a silly tackle by Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey on Jonny Evans gave Mark Halsey no choice but to send the midfielder off on 38 minutes. An angry Shelvey also exchanged words with Sir Alex as he trudged down the tunnel. He could really have no complaints.
The manager would have been happy to have got United back in at half time with the scoreline goalless after such a poor display but he would have been more disappointed with the way the second half started. A loose Paul Scholes interception led to Gerrard taking the ball down well on his chest, just inside the penalty area, before placing a shot past Lindegaard to get The Kop on its feet in the first minute after the interval.
The lead lasted for just five minutes after a well worked move which saw Valencia’s cross chested down, in the penalty box, by Shinji Kagawa to Rafael before he shifted the ball onto his left foot to curl the ball past Pepe Reina with the help of a post. It was a fantastic reply and the first real sign that United had come to get a result here.
Despite being down to ten men, Liverpool still maintained the element of control that they had in the first half. Linegaard had to be alert to deny the likes of Suso & Suarez from restoring the home side’s lead. Suarez also had a shout for a penalty, on the hour mark, which was swiftly rebuffed by the referee.
But United would get a penalty of their own at the other end on 76 minutes. A swift counter attack after Liverpool left a loose ball for Valencia to pounce on as he stormed into the penalty box before being brought down by the inrushing Glen Johnson. It was a definite penalty which was just about dispatched by Robin van Persie after Reina got two hands on it after guessing correctly to go to his left. It was too hot to handle and United finally scored their first penalty of the season after three previous attempts in recent games.
The visitors were able to comfortably see out the result which in many ways was a “smash and grab” win after yet another unconvincing display. However, defensively the team looked solid, despite captain Nemanja Vidic being rested, with Rafael & Rio Ferdinand looking imperious. The result still leaves Liverpool looking for their first league win of the season as they stay in the bottom three.
United have won titles because of performances like this and I am sure every United fan will take this today.
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