Brendan Rodgers‘ Liverpool squad kept their season-long clean sheet intact and earned a vital three points in front of the home fans as an early Daniel Sturridge strike sunk Manchester United 1-0.
The win gave the home side sole possession of the top of the table in addition to a great win over their bitter rivals.
The Reds never found a second goal but they were the side with more cutting edge as Robin van Persie and company were left shaking their heads in frustration.
Liverpool banged their way ahead early as birthday boy Sturridge redirected a Daniel Agger header goalbound in just the third minute to put Liverpool up. The corner from Steven Gerrard came in from the right corner and Aspas got a head to it and sent it to Sturridge near the goal line who flicked it on into the net.
The Liverpool midfield dominated possession throughout the early portions of the match with accurate passing, as Jordan Henderson, Aspas, and Philippe Coutinho linked up well and built from the back. On the other end Ryan Giggs, making his 38th appearance against Liverpool, struggled to settle into the match and made a few rash challenges to give Liverpool free kicks.
Tom Cleverley showed his frustration in the 34th minute as he angrily took down Coutinho very late, and found himself in the referee’s book for the vicious challenge. The following kerfuffle also saw Iago Aspas booked. Meanwhile Phil Jones hobbled off after twisting his ankle, replaced by Antonio Valencia.
source: Getty ImagesAlso frustrated was Michael Carrick, who resorted to wrestling down Aspas to prevent a counter, receiving a booking for his efforts. With Robin van Persie also having been booked earlier, all the yellows provided a glimpse into the physicality the United players were falling back on. The match remained chippy as Gerrard and van Persie got in each others’ faces towards the end of the first half, having to be separated by the referee.
Those frustrations boiled over into the second half, as Carrick and others received early words from the referee. United then began a spell of pressure that saw Ashley Young take a crack at a volley off a corner but his bullet of a strike was blocked comfortably by Glen Johnson.
The match then transformed into a bitter battle in the midfield, offering little in the final third but keeping viewers entertained with hard-fought possession. United began to retain more of the ball but could offer little on goal. Manager David Moyes brought on Javier Hernandez in the 73rd minute to add some punch to the attack, but Liverpool instead took the initiative.
United pressed and pressed as time wound down, but as van Persie missed from a tight angle in the 88th minute, it was clear they wouldn’t be finding the goal today. Substitute Raheem Sterling almost had a stunner in extra time but a wonderful save by David De Gea denied the second score.
Lineups: Liverpool - Simon Mignolet; Glen Johnson (Andre Wisdom, 78′), Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel; Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho (Luis Alberto, 84′), Lucas, Jordan Henderson; Iago Aspas (Raheem Sterling, 63′), Daniel Sturridge.
Manchester United - David De Gea; Patrice Evra, Phil Jones (Antonio Valencia, 37′), Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic; Ryan Giggs (Javier Hernandez, 73′), Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverly; Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young (Nani, 63′); Robin van Persie.
- Kyle Bonn, ProSoccer Talk