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FA Cup

  • 9 January 2011
  • • 13:30
  • • Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Referee: H. Webb
  • • Attendance: 74727

Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool: Controversial Giggs penalty and Gerrard red card spoil Dalglish's return

Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool: Controversial Giggs penalty and Gerrard red card spoil Dalglish's return

Red Devils progress with victory over bitter rivals

Manchester United spoiled Kenny Dalglish’s return to the Liverpool dugout as they secured their progression to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory. A controversial early penalty from from Ryan Giggs won the game for United but Liverpool’s task was made much harder after Steven Gerrard’s sending off in the 32nd minute for a reckless challenge on Michael Carrick.

Sir Alex Ferguson made three changes to his starting line-up as Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic were not included in the match day squad. Rooney picked up an ankle injury against West Bromwich Albion and despite making good progress in his recovery was not risked. After playing the last six consecutive matches Vidic was rested with a slight thigh problem and his recent central defensive partner Chris Smalling was dropped to the bench as Rio Ferdinand and Johnny Evans started in defence. United’s other change saw Michael Carrick return to the centre of midfield in place of Darron Gibson and there was a place on the substitutes bench for fit again Michael Owen.

After taking charge of the club 24 hours earlier Kenny Dalglish made five changes to the Liverpool side who lost in Roy Hodgson’s last game in charge against Blackburn. Three of the changes were in defence 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 no place in the squad for Konchesky. Raul Meireles and Dirk Kuyt were also recalled 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 explosive and this was no different 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 care and Giggs made no mistake from the spot despite Pepe Reina diving the right way.

That was far from 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 hectic opening minutes and the next clear chance fell to visitors 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 was able to clear before the Spaniard could tap into the open goal. The visitors looked to keep the pressure on but a long range drive from Gerrard sailed over the bar and United were able to recover.

After working their way back into the game things suddenly got much harder for Liverpool in the 32nd minute as their inspirational captain Gerrard was sent off for a crazy two footed tackle on 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 writhing in agony on the ground. Howard Webb was quickly on the scene and removed Gerrard from the incident before issuing 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 a mountain to climb.

The sending off slowed the pace of the game down as both sides readjusted to the 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.

And in the last action of the half Liverpool were lucky not to go further behind from a United corner, delivered by Giggs from the left and met by Evans, who had got away from his marker inside the penalty area. However the Northern Ireland international’s powerful header crashed against the post and bounced to safety leaving Liverpool with the hope they could get back into the match in the second half.

Early bath| Gerrard receives his marching orders from Howard Webb

Manchester United began the second half in an attacking mood and could have extended their lead on two occasions in the first five minutes of the half. The hosts must have been told by Ferguson to use the width of the pitch and exploit their numerical advantage over Liverpool as both chances came from dangerous crosses.

The first began with a bit of sublime control from Berbatov on the edge of the penalty area. He played in Fletcher down the right wing and his cross found Hernandez in the middle, but his glancing header was just wide of goal. A minute later and Hernandez was involved again 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. Reina, however, was able to save and avert the danger.

Liverpool were struggling to get themselves 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 Ryan Giggs that 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 fired over the bar from 12 yards out.

The visitors’ first opportunity of the second half came two minutes later as Kuyt got on the end of a right wing cross from Kelly. He headed the ball down to Torres but the Spaniard's attempted volley was blocked by Ferdinand.

Dalglish’s decision to introduce substitutes Ryan Babel and Jonjo Shelvey just after the hour lifted Liverpool and with pretty much his first touch Babel tested Tomasz Kuszczak for the first time in the match. The two subs combined and Babel wriggled free for long enough to fire a low shot at Kuszczak but he saved well low to his left.

With their tails up Liverpool continued to press and following a foul by Anderson on Torres on the edge of the United penalty area gave the visitors another opportunity 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 Kuszczak made a good save diving to his left.

Despite their pressure Liverpool still looked fragile in defence and but for 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 but the Spaniard made a good save from the Brazilian. The ball rebounded to Berbatov, but again Reina made a save from his shot and finally they ball landed at the feet of Evra with Reina denying 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 home crowd. Sir Alex Ferguson made the first move by replacing Javier Hernandez with former Liverpool striker 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 faithful.

As tiredness began to set in amongst both sides it was United who finished the game stronger and with seven minutes to play they created another opportunity to double their lead. Giggs and  Evra combined down the United left, and the Frenchman’s deep cross was met by the leaping 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 United kept hold of possession inside the Liverpool half to kill the game off and as Howard Webb blew the final whistle the United fans erupted with delight at progressing to the next round, and getting one over their fierce rivals.

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