MANCHESTER UNITED 1-4 LIVERPOOL
Saturday 14 March 2009 12:45 , Barclays Premier League
Saturday 14 March 2009 12:45 , Barclays Premier League
REDS THUMP UNITED TO KEEP DREAM ALIVE
Liverpool's title dream is still alive after they came from behind to thump Manchester United 4-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime.
Fernando Torres cancelled out a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty before Steven Gerrard completed a remarkable turnaround with his own spot-kick just before the break.
A sublime free-kick from Fabio Aurelio following the dismissal of Nemanja Vidic wrapped up the points before a late lob from Andrea Dossena put the gloss on a week that has had many Kopites pinching themselves.
The result leaves Liverpool four points behind United, who have a game in hand, with nine fixtures remaining. It also ensures a first league double over our arch-rivals since 2001-02.
Rafa Benitez will accept the title is still a tall order, but wherever the Premier League trophy ends up, this performance and scoreline will go down as one of the highlights of the Spaniard's reign.
Benitez went searching for his 100th league win as Reds boss without the injured Xabi Alonso. If Javier Mascherano is Liverpool's engine in midfield, then Alonso is the oil that keeps everything flowing nicely. Still, his absence gave Lucas a chance to shine on the biggest stage, and the Brazilian will have won over some of his critics with a rudimentary but effective display.
Another blow came during the warm up when right-back Alvaro Arbeloa injured his hamstring, forcing Sami Hyypia to tie his boots at the last minute.
The sides set about a cagey start at a wind-swept Old Trafford. United were first to threaten when Ronaldo cut back to the oncoming Ji-Sung Park. The goal gaped and it took a well-judged deflection from Carragher to clear for a corner.
Similar heroics were required from Vidic after Aurelio sent Gerrard bursting into the United box on 11 minutes.
You could have prepared and swallowed a prawn sandwich in the time it took either side to enthuse their fans again when Torres turned Rio Ferdinand on a sixpence before Vidic saved his partner's blushes.
The game of cat and mouse was finally broken on 23 minutes when Park sprinted into the box and navigated Pepe Reina, who caught a trailing leg and gave referee Alan Wiley no option but to award a spot-kick. Liverpool's Spanish goalkeeper went the right way but Ronaldo's penalty was too precise.
The travelling Kop's deflation lasted just four minutes, however, thanks to a downfield pass from Martin Skrtel which left Torres with just Vidic and van der Sar to beat. United's Serbian defender lost his footing, leaving El Nino to slot coolly beyond the goalkeeper to claim his 11th goal of the season.
Minutes later Torres nutmegged Vidic in the box as he searched for a second but it was cleared for a corner.
The next goal would be crucial and both sides knew it. United came close through a Ronaldo dead ball which Reina spilled only to recover just before Tevez pounced. Next, Michael Carrick turned Lucas before firing a fierce effort narrowly over the crossbar.
But it was Liverpool who eventually turned the game on its head when Gerrard burst past Patrice Evra to catch a Torres throughball. The full-back challenged clumsily, prompting Wiley to point to the spot for a second time.
Gerrard once had a penalty saved by van der Sar when the Dutchman wore Fulham colours, but he made no mistake with this one before kissing the television cameras in celebration of his 18th goal of the campaign.
United came out for the second period eager to respond, and almost had a huge slice of luck when a Ronaldo cross swerved onto Reina's post and back into play. Liverpool cleared but it was a warning.
Park was impressing down the right as the hosts responded to chants of 'attack, attack, attack' from their fans, and the former PSV man would have been one-on-one with Reina on 53 minutes but for a smart interception from Aurelio.
Reina had to be alert to palm over after Tevez squeezed a cross-cum-shot past Carragher. Liverpool's custodian fumbled the resulting corner but claimed well at the second attempt under pressure from Tevez.
Wayne Rooney tried to twist and turn his way to an equaliser on 62 minutes only to have his shot deflected wide by Dirk Kuyt.
The pressure continued.
Next, Ronaldo, patrolled well all game by Aurelio, beat his man to find Rooney at the far post. The Scouser headed back across goal and it took some resilient defending from Skrtel to stop Tevez threatening.
The Argentine should have levelled the game on 72 minutes after chesting down a lofted ball from Ferdinand. Liverpool's defence protested for offside but the flag stayed down. With just Reina to beat, Tevez scuffed his shot and the ball roll harmlessly wide.
Alex Ferguson had seen enough. With 16 minutes remaining, he made a triple substitution, replacing Carrick, Anderson and Park with Paul Scholes, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs.
It was a bold move from the Scot but it soon backfired following the dismissal of Vidic. Wiley had no choice but to show the Serb red after a lovely touch from Kuyt sent Gerrard clean through. Last man Vidic interjected and United were down to 10 men with 14 minutes left on the clock and no opportunity to make a change.
Any hopes of a comeback were then dashed completely when Aurelio curled the resulting free-kick beyond van der Sar at the Stretford End. Ronaldo would have been proud.
Gerrard could have made it four with the kind of chance he normally buries but it mattered not.
Substitute Andrea Dossena showed the skipper how it was done on 90 minutes, lobbing van der Sar after a Reina punt.
"We want five," sang the cluster of Liverpool fans at the opposite end of the ground. They know the title is still a long shot, but this result keeps United looking over their shoulder. Whatever happens come May, they'll never forget today.
Manchester United: Van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand (c), Vidic, O'Shea, Park, Carrick, , Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez. Subs - Berbatov, Evans, Fletcher, Foster, Giggs, Scholes,
Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio, Hyypia, Skrtel, Carragher, Riera, Leiva, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard (c), Torres. Subs - Babel, Cavalieri, Dossena, El Zhar, Hyypia, Insua, Ngog
Referee: Alan Wiley
Liverpoolfc.tv Man-of-the-Match: Aurelio
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