Birthday Boy Sturridge The Hero Again

LIVERPOOL 1-0 MANCHESTER UNITED (PREMIER LEAGUE)

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge celebrated his 24th birthday by scoring the winner at Anfield on the eve of Liverpool legend Bill Shankly’s 100th birthday celebrations.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers made his first change to the starting XI this season with the injured Kolo Toure being replaced by the returning Martin Skrtel. Moyes made two changes as Ryan Giggs and Ashley Young came in with Antonio Valencia dropping to the bench and Wayne Rooney out injured.

Pre-match there was a minutes applause for Liverpool’s legendary manager (who passed away in 1981) and the noise levels rose and rose before Andre Marriner blew his whistle. Yet, it was United who threatened first.

Patrice Evra raided down the left hand side and his delivery ended up at the feet of Ryan Giggs on the right. The United legend tried to put the ball into the middle for Robin van Persie but Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet stopped it. It was an early warning for the home side but Liverpool quickly fired back with a warning of their own.

With United being pressed in their own defensive third, Ashley Young took one too many touches on the United left hand side of the box and was robbed by Jordan Henderson. The ball fell to Daniel Sturridge whose shot was blocked at source and deflected wide for a corner. Captain Steven Gerrard whipped the ball in from the right, straight onto the head of Daniel Agger. The Danish centre back’s header was on target but Sturridge guided past the two men on the line from a yard out. The celebrations were wild both on the pitch and in the stands.

However, United were almost level within a couple of minutes. Danny Welbeck won a free kick on the right wing which was delivered by Giggs. The ball was headed back across goal by Evra and it came to van Persie with his back to goal. The Dutchman tried an inventive overhead kick but couldn’t keep it below the bar.

The opening 10 minutes were end to end with Coutinho shooting wide from range and Welbeck and Gerrard putting their efforts straight at each goalkeeper before Liverpool got another real scare after 12 minutes. United forced a corner on the left and Young took it. His low cross went straight through the 6 yard box without anyone getting a touch. It was a real let off for the Reds.

Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel celebrate the English striker's winner
Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel celebrate the English striker’s winner

The rest of the first half settled down considerably with neither team imposing themselves on the game. Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho both had shots saved easily by David De Gea while it took a last ditch challenge from Glen Johnson to stop Welbeck getting a shot off. It was uninspiring stuff from both teams but the game heated up just before half time.

van Persie and Skrtel had a coming together in the Liverpool box which kicked off arguments between van Persie and a few Liverpool players including Gerrard. It prompted referee Marriner to tell the captains to calm their sides down.

The second half began with United coming out with more fire and passion but it was Liverpool who had the first chance. A Gerrard free kick was headed over by Agger in what proved to be Liverpool’s last chance for a while. United then began to apply consistent pressure.

van Persie and Young were both denied by Liverpool defenders early on in the second period before a contentious decision. Welbeck found his way into the Liverpool area on the left and went down under the challenge of Iago Aspas but got no penalty. Despite his fury, it was the right decision with Welbeck going down far too easily.

United’s pressure was not being turned into chances with the final ball being very poor. Giggs, Young, Welbeck and the subsitute Nani were all at fault for this. The only real chance United had was a weak flick header from Giggs from a Nani corner. United were not troubling Mignolet in the Liverpool goal until the 77th minute. Nani came in from the right and got past Raheem Sterling’s weak tackle before firing a lovely strike from range which Mignolet had to punch clear.

United were beginning to build up a head of steam and, with 3 minutes of normal time to go, they had the chance to draw level. Substitute Javier Hernandez slipped van Persie in down the right hand side of the box and the Dutch striker was one on one with Mignolet. He went for the near post but got it all wrong and put it comfortably wide. United staff and fans alike couldn’t believe that he had missed.

Liverpool held off United for the rest of the game but almost got a second in the last minute of stoppage time. Young winger Sterling had space to bring the ball forward on the left and he did – cutting inside before forcing a good save from De Gea from the the edge of the area.

Referee Marriner blew the full time whistle seconds after and the celebrations were loud from the Anfield crowd. It was a big win for Rodgers and Liverpool while United and Moyes will have to go back to the drawing board over the international break.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson (Wisdom 79), Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Aspas (Sterling 60), Coutinho (Alberto 83), Sturridge

Subs: Jones, Kelly, Flanagan, Ibe,

Goal: Sturridge

Yellow: Aspas, Lucas

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones (Valencia 37), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs (Hernandez 73), Cleverley, Carrick, Young (Nani 63), Welbeck, van Persie

Subs: Lindegaard, Smalling, Buttner, Anderson,

Yellow: Cleverley, van Persie, Carrick, Young

Referee: Andre Marriner

MAN OF THE MATCH: MARTIN SKRTEL (LIVERPOOL)

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