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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Man Utd. beat Liverpool

Gerrard being shown red card
Manchester United spoiled Kenny Dalglish's comeback to Liverpool as they secured their fourth round berth of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory. A controversial early penalty kick from Giggs won the game for United but Liverpool's task was made even more difficult after Steven Gerrard was sent off in the 32nd minute for a reckless challenge on Michael Carrick.
Sir Alex Ferguson made three changes to the starting line-up. Wayne Rooney who picked up an ankle injury against West Bromwich Albion despite making good progress in his recovery was not risked. After playing the last six matches in a row, united captain Vidic was rested with a slight thigh problem and his latest central defensive partner Chris Smalling was put on the bench as Rio Ferdinand and Johnny Evans started in defence. Michael Carrick returned to the centre of midfield in place of Darron Gibson and Michael Owen returned to the bench.
Kenny Dalglish after being appointed as manager yesterday made five changes to the Liverpool side who lost in their last game with Hodgson in charge against Blackburn. Three of the defenders were changed as Martin Kelly, Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger came in for Glen Johnson, Sotiris Kyrgiakos and Paul Konchesky. Johnson's wife had gone into labour and Kyrgiakos was dropped to the bench but there was no place in the team's squad for Konchesky. Raul Meireles and Dirk Kuyt were also welcomed back to the starting line-up in place of Joe Cole and David Ngog as Steven Gerrard was pushed forward to start just behind Fernando Torres.
Any match between these two bitter rivals is always exciting and this was also the same as the home side took the lead in the opening minute of the match. With just 31 seconds played Dimitar Berbatov received a pass from Darren Fletcher inside the Liverpool penalty area. After controlling the ball he took it past Agger but was caught by the Danish defender and after an extra stride he went down and referee Howard Webb had no hesitation in awarding a penalty kick. The replays suggested the decision looked a little generous but United didn't spare a thought as Ryan Giggs made no mistake from the spot despite Pepe Reina diving the right way.
That was not the start Liverpool and Dalglish were hoping for but they could have been level in the fourth minute through Torres. Gerrard beat Evans in the air and flicked the ball on Kuyt just outside of the United penalty area, the Dutchman rolled a pass to his left to Torres but from the edge of the area he couldn't get power or accuracy in his shot and the ball rolled harmlessly wide of the goal.
The game began to settle down after its explosive opening minutes and the next vivid chance fell to Liverpool in the 20th minute as Kelly went marauding down the right wing. The young full back was played in by Gerrard before delivering a low cross towards Torres at the back post but Ferdinand cleared before the Spaniard could tap into the open goal. The visitors looked to keep the pressure on but a long range shot from Gerrard sailed over the bar and United recovered.
They were working their way back into the game but things suddenly got much harder for them as in the 32nd minute their captain Steven Gerrard was sent off for an idiotic two footed tackle on Michael Carrick. Rafael played a ball infield towards Carrick on the half way line but Gerrard's lunge was off the ground and mistimed and he clattered into the ankles of Carrick leaving the United midfielder squirmed in pain on the ground. Howard Webb the World Cup final refree was quickly on the scene and removed Gerrard from the incident before penalising him with a red card, and despite protests from his team mates the Liverpool captain looked like he knew it was coming and trudged off to the dressing room leaving his side with an almost impossible task.
The sending off slowed the game down as both sides readjusted to the new task ahead of them, neither side troubled the opposing goal keeper but long range efforts from Maxi and Kuyt showed that the Liverpool players hadn't given up hope of getting back into the game.
Liverpool were lucky not to go further behind from a United corner at the end of first half. The corner was delivered by Giggs from the left and was met by Evans who had got away from his marker inside the penalty area. However the Irishman's strong header crashed against the post and returned back to safety leaving Liverpool with the hope they could get back into the match in the second half.
Man United began the second half in an attacking mode and could have extended their lead on two times in the starting five minutes of the half. The hosts must have been told by Sir Alex to use the width of the pitch and their numerical advantage over visitor as both the chances came from dangerous crosses.
The first started with a piece of sublime control from Berba on the edge of the penalty area, he played in Fletcher down the right wing and his cross found Chicharito in the middle but his glancing header was just wide of goal. A minute later Hernandez was again involved as he was released down the left wing, his cross was too high for Berbatov but it struck Fabio Aurelio and looked to be heading for the bottom corner with some power but Pepe Reina was able to save and avert the danger.
Liverpool were finding it hard to get back into the match and in the 56th minute United had another opportunity from another dangerous cross. This time it was the left foot of the veteran Ryan Giggs which delivered the cross and Reina was unable to claim the ball under pressure from Hernandez but although Berbatov reacted first to the loose ball he misfired over the bar from 12 yards out.
The visitors' first opportunity of the half came just two minutes later as Kuyt got on the end of a right wing cross from Kelly, he headed the ball down to Torres but his attempted volley was blocked away by Ferdinand.
Dalglish's decision to introduce substitutes Ryan Babel and Jonjo Shelvey just after the hour lifted Liverpool and with his first touch Babel tested Tomas Kuszczak for the first time in the whole match. The two subs combined and Babel ran free for long enough to fire a low shot at Kuszczak but he saved well low to his left.
Liverpool continued to press up and following a foul by Anderson on Torres on the edge of the United penalty area gave the visitors another chance to get back into the match. Fabio Aurelio stepped up to take the free kick on the right edge of the penalty area and his left foot strike was curling towards the top corner but united's keeper Kuszczak made a good diving save to his left.
Despite their continued pressure Liverpool still looked weak in defence. Without Reina they could have gone further behind in the 69th minute as the Spaniard made a handful of excellent saves as the ball ricocheted around the Liverpool penalty area. Firstly he punched a Giggs cross away but only as far as Rafael Da Silva but the Spanish keeper made a good save from the Brazilian defender, the ball rebounded to Berba but again Reina made a save from his shot and finally the ball landed at the feet of Evra but Reina denied him as well by tipping his shot over the bar.
Both sides made changes to the strike force with 13 minutes to go and both changes were met by huge cheers from the united faithfuls. Sir Alex Ferguson made the first move by replacing Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez with former Liverpool strike sensation Michael Owen who received a rousing reception from the Stretford End, and then Dalglish's decision to replace Torres with David Ngog a minute later caused further cheer from the United fans.
As tiredness creeped into both sides it was United who finished the game stronger and with seven minutes to play created another chance to double their lead. Giggs and Evra combined down the United left flank, and the Frenchman's deep cross was met by the jumping Berbatov at the back post but he was unable to get over the ball and his header flew over the bar.
The officials added three minutes of injury time at the end of the game which meant Man United kept hold of possession inside the Liverpool half to finish the game off and as Howard Webb blew the final whistle the United fans erupted with ecstasy of progressing to the next round, and getting one over their fiercest rivals.


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