Liverpool record a morale-boosting and surprisingly comfortable victory against bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford…
Kop boss Brendan Rodgers continued with the four-man, diamond midfield that served him so well against Southampton last time out but did make a personnel change with Raheem Sterling replacing Philippe Coutinho.
The first attempt of note came in the third minute when Jordan Henderson threaded through to Daniel Sturridge but the current Premier League Player of the Month sliced his effort well wide.
Luis Suarez had a strong penalty claim moments later when Marouane Fellaini stumbled into the back of him but, perhaps as a consequence of the Uruguayan staying on his feet, referee Mark Clattenburg choose only to award a corner.
Liverpool were certainly enjoying the better of the opening exchanges in a contest which, as expected, was fiercely contested with a number of firm challenges coming in from both sides.
On the occasions United did have possession, Rodgers’ men were quick to press and hurry the hosts out of it.
Sturridge miscued again following a fine pass from Suarez in the 20th minute, while up the other end Wayne Rooney almost burst through after a neat turn.
Joe Allen was the next player to have a shot on target, although easily saved by David de Gea, after more good link-up play between Sturridge and Suarez.
Full-backs Jon Flanagan and Rafael exchanged bookings within seconds of each other, the United player getting his for a horrible late tackle on Reds captain Steven Gerrard.
Moments later and Rafael was involved again as United conceded a 34th minute penalty, subsequently converted with aplomb by Gerrard, for handball.
Given the proximity of the offence to goal, as Suarez looked to go around the Brazilian, there were plenty of protests from Liverpool players, in particular Henderson, demanding a second yellow card be administered but Clattenburg decided otherwise.
United showed better endeavour as the half drew to a close and Rooney forced a great diving stop from Simon Mignolet after good work down the right from Adnan Januzaj and Rafael.
Dramatically Liverpool were awarded another penalty within 60 seconds of the restart after a napping Phil Jones clumsily felled Joe Allen.
Gerrard again dispatched the resulting spot kick from 12 yards, this time firing low into the right-hand corner, to double the visitors’ lead.
United improved markedly as the hour mark approached and even had a couple of unsuccessful penalty shouts of their own.
Mignolet remained largely untroubled though and increasingly the Merseysiders looked likely to grab a third on the break; something Suarez may have managed if he hadn’t slipped at a vital moment.
Rooney saw an attempt blocked and Fellaini fired over from the edge of the area but still Moyes’ men struggled to create clear-cut openings.
For Liverpool, a fabulous turn and ball from Suarez deserved to lead to something but United had enough men back to deny Sturridge a shot.
Rafael was again lucky to stay on the field after a foul on Suarez before a deflected Gerrard drive almost nestled in the corner.
United finally had a true opening in the 75th minute but a subdued Robin van Persie headed a Rooney cross tamely off target.
A belated double change from Moyes introduced Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck into the game but it was effectively over as a contest soon afterwards when the hosts remarkably conceded penalty number three.
Gerrard may have been denied a unique hat-trick by the post but, as a result of his tackle on Sturridge, Vidic was shown a second yellow and duly received his marching orders for a fourth time in this fixture.
Penalty number four should have been awarded in the 81st minute when Michael Carrick became the latest man to fell an opponent in the box but this time Clattenburg decided to ignore the incident.
Suarez, denied minutes earlier by a phenomenal stop by de Gea, added further gloss to proceedings in the closing stages by beating the off-side trap and slotting home.
More should have followed before the final whistle and Rodgers could even withdrew both Gerrard and Sturridge such was the certainty of the outcome.
A dominant display from start to finish. I can scarcely believe just how easy it was and in the end United can count themselves lucky to have kept the deficit down to three! The match offered a clear contrast between a team totally devoid of confidence and another who are flying at present. Defensively we were vary rarely troubled and it was very pleasing to see a second clean sheet in a row kept after our previous horror shows at the back. Beating United is always sweet but with the deficit to leaders Chelsea consequently cut to four points there is a much bigger picture to consider. With a game in hand on Jose Mourinho’s men, and both the Blues and fellow title chasers Manchester City still to visit Anfield, the improbable dream could actually happen. This current United team is very poor and their performance today was terrible but the result still adds further credence to the validity of our aspirations.
Steven Gerrard – The game was largely won through a dominant midfield performance, aided by the full-backs pushing high up the field, which overrun United and wouldn’t let them settle. Gerrard was central to that and also kept his nerve brilliantly on the first two penalties. Number three was unlucky but the game was already up by that stage.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan, Gerrard (Lucas 87′), Henderson, Allen, Sterling (Coutinho 72′), Suarez, Sturridge (Aspas 92′).
Unused subs: Jones, Sakho, Cissokho, Moses.
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