Grant Hanley’s 80th-minute goal handed Blackburn Rovers a stunning 3-2 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford to ensure Sir Alex Ferguson’s 70th birthday was one to forget.
Having revealed earlier in the day that he expects to retire in three years, Ferguson then saw Ayegbeni Yakubu hand the struggling visitors a two-goal lead before Dimitar Berbatov responded with a brace of his own to bring United level.
Blackburn’s deserved winner
However, with Blackburn under increasing pressure, a rare corner brought them a surprising, although deserved, winner.
Hanley beat United goal-keeper David de Gea to Morten Gamst Pedersen’s kick and, with the home defence slow to respond, the central defender reacted quickly and beat Rafael to the rebound to head in a memorable winning goal, just the second of his career.
It appeared that Ferguson paid the price for some surprising team selections – midfielder Michael Carrick partnering former Rovers defender Phil Jones in the centre of defence, and right-back Rafael playing alongside Park Ji-Sung in an unfamiliar central midfield pairing.
Dalglish relieved to see back of 2011
Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish admits he is glad to see the back of 2011 because he believes 2012 could be a big year for Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard ended a troubled 12 months by scoring his second league goal of the season as Dalglish’s side came from behind to defeat Newcastle 3-1 at Anfield on Friday.
The 31-year-old Liverpool captain was making only his sixth league appearance of an injury-hit campaign. Former Newcastle striker Craig Bellamy scored twice as Dalglish’s side came from behind to secure the points after Daniel Agger’s own goal had given the visitors the lead.
Having undergone surgery on a damaged ankle towards the end of last season, Gerrard has missed most of the present campaign due to an ankle infection.
“It’s great to see him get the reward because he has worked really hard to get where he is,” said Dalglish after Gerrard climbed off the substitutes’ bench to score his side’s third goal.
“It was a freak injury that got him in trouble in the first place so the boy deserves a wee bit of luck. Maybe 2012 will bring him that.
“He is getting his way back to fitness. It’s fantastic reward for him and everybody who has helped him to get back to the level he is at the moment.”
“In recent fixtures we haven’t got what we deserved, so it was really pleasing to get the three points and three goals after criticism we haven’t scored enough.”
“We didn’t expect that. It was a bad one to lose. It was a great comeback and I thought we’d go on and win as we had the momentum but the third goal was a killer.”
“I’m extremely pleased
because of the way we played. We fought for each other as a team and gave everything. To keep fighting like this it’s a great day for the club.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2012.
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