Van Persie pen sinks Reds
Battling Reds lose out as Van Persie fires United to win from spot
Last Updated: 23/09/12 4:53pm
Robin van Persie's second-half penalty handed Manchester United a 2-1 victory over 10-man Liverpool on an emotionally-charged afternoon at Anfield.
The clash marked the Reds' first home game since the recent report into the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 supporters lost their lives, and the encounter was marked with tributes to the victims and their families ahead of kick-off.
And it was fitting that talismanic Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was the player to break the deadlock in the 51st minute after the Reds had dominated the first half.
His goal came after team-mate Jonjo Shelvey had been dismissed for a rash challenge on Jonny Evans shortly before the break.
The skipper's opener provided the wake-up call United needed as Rafael netted a classy goal just five minutes later, then Van Persie added another from the spot after Valencia went down in the area under Glen Johnson's challenge.
The win was United's fourth on the bounce and left them second in the early Premier League table while Brendan Rodgers' men, despite a battling display, remain without a success this season having taken two points from five games.
"If ever there was a reminder of how difficult it is to play at Anfield it was today. (United) never got going in the first 50 minutes until Liverpool scored and it really wasn't good enough at all."
Sky Sports Super Sunday pundit Gary Neville Quotes of the week
Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra shook hands in a show of unity before the game - the Liverpool forward had refused to shake the United defender's hand in the league meeting between the sides at Old Trafford in February, having previously been found guilty of racially abusing Evra in the corresponding fixture at Anfield last season.
Thankfully there were none of the distasteful chants which have marred this fixture for years, although that did not mean there was not an edge to the game.
United may have left Anfield wondering how they managed to win having hardly threatened in attack and failed to dominate midfield until the final quarter but those concerns will have been of little consequence.
For the first minute of the match three sides of Anfield held up The Truth, Justice and 96 mosaics as representatives of the Hillsborough victims' families watched on from the directors' box.
Also present, for the first time since being sacked in May, was former manager Kenny Dalglish - intrinsically linked with the tragedy having played a major role in the aftermath during his first spell in charge.
What he saw in the first half would have been very familiar as for most of last season his sides dominated at home without scoring.
Once Giggs had flashed an early shot wide the momentum was all with the hosts as a Suarez cross-shot was stopped by Anders Lindegaard and headed away by Jonny Evans under pressure from Fabio Borini.
Gerrard drove a low effort from Shelvey's corner into the side-netting and Suarez looped a right-footed shot wide before a match which, possibly because of the all the pre-match commemorations, had lacked the usual hallmarks of a north-west derby ignited.
Shelvey robbed Giggs in midfield but as the ball broke free he launched himself at Evans and the inevitable outcome was a red card.
The 20-year-old midfielder, who scored twice in Thursday's UEFA Europa League victory at Young Boys, departed down the tunnel having exchanged heated words with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Even with a numerical disadvantage Liverpool continued to pressurise United and Suarez drew Lindegaard into a low saw from his free-kick.
The visitors would have been pleased to reach the interval with their goal intact but it took just 50 seconds after the restart for that to change.
Second-half substitute Suso, making his Premier League debut three days after his first-team bow in Switzerland, saw his cross half-cleared to Glen Johnson.
A tackle from Paul Scholes, on for Nani at half-time, succeeded only in diverting the ball towards Gerrard who volleyed home left-footed in front of the Kop.
The Reds captain, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest victim of the Hillsborough disaster, whirled away pointing both arms to the sky in celebration and remembrance.
It was short-lived, however, as within five minutes United were level when Shinji Kagawa laid the ball off for Rafael to brilliantly curl left-footed over Jose Reina and in off the far post.
Rodgers' determination not to just shut up shop and settle for a draw was reflected in the approach of his team who made light of the fact they were a man down with Suso having a shot tipped over by Lindegaard and Suarez continuing to trouble the visitors' defence.
But as the match entered the final 20 minutes United began to take more control, although their winner came from their opponents giving away possession on the halfway line.
Daniel Agger and Johnson collided to allow Antonio Valencia to race 50 yards into the area and although Johnson got back he could only bring down the Ecuador international.Van Persie drilled home - although Reina went the right way and almost made the stop.
|Liverpool||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||3|
|63.1||1st Half Poss.||36.9|
|41.2||2nd Half Poss.||58.8|
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|12||West Bromwich Albion||1||1|
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|18||West Ham United||1||0|