LONDON: Ten-man Liverpool were left searching for their first Premier League win under new manager Brendan Rodgers as archrivals Manchester United came from behind to win 2-1 at an emotional Anfield yesterday.
This was Liverpool’s first home match since an independent report cleared their fans of any responsibility for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster where 96 of the Merseysiders’ supporters were crushed to death during an FA Cup semi-final.
Liverpool played more than half the match a man down after Jonjo Shelvey was sent off in the 39th minute for a two-footed challenge on Jonny Evans. But they still took a 46th-minute lead when captain Steven Gerrard volleyed home from near the penalty spot.
However, United only had to wait five minutes for an equaliser when Rafael curled in a superb shot from the right-hand side of the Liverpool area. And with 15 minutes to go United were awarded a spot-kick when Liverpool defender Glen Johnson brought down Antonio Valencia. There was a delay of several minutes as Liverpool defender Daniel Agger received treatment for an injury before Dutch striker Robin van Persie beat goal-keeper Pepe Reina.
Victory saw United move to within a point of leaders Chelsea, while defeat left Liverpool languishing in the bottom three.
“It is a great result for us but we did not play well,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “In the first-half Liverpool dominated us, in the second-half we had better possession but they had 10 men, we can’t take great credit for that.” Rodgers hailed his ‘heroic’ side and said decisions had gone against them.
“I thought the players were heroic in terms of performance and the spirit,” he said. “They were brilliant and didn’t get what they deserved. Jonjo, if he gets sent off then Jonny Evans has to go as well. I think both players’ feet are off the floor.
“I’m sure it’s never a penalty, and then obviously Luis Suarez goes up the other end and gets a toe to the ball and the defender doesn’t touch the ball, and he goes down and it looks a penalty.”
Before kick-off, the Hillsborough victims were remembered in a series of pre-match ceremonies. United legend Bobby Charlton presented former Liverpool striker Ian Rush with a bouquet of red roses, and United captain Ryan Giggs released 96 red balloons, one for each of the dead.
“Liverpool did a fantastic job today, the fans were terrific and I don’t think there can be any complaint on that part,” said Ferguson. “There was ferocity and it was intense and it has been a good day for football.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.