Liverpool 1-2 Man Utd: Mata’s Brace Sinks Ten-Man Reds

Manchester United inflicted Liverpool’s first defeat of the year to return to fourth position in the Premier League table.

Half-time substitute Steven Gerrard received a straight red card after 38 seconds of coming on for Adam Lallana and Wayne Rooney missed an injury-time penalty following Emre Can’s barge on Daley Blind.

Juan Mata scored twice- the second a sublime scissors-kick- to secure only United’s fifth away victory of the season, despite Daniel Sturridge’s 69th-minute strike.

Juan Mata Celebrates Scoring Against Liverpool at Anfield. Image: Getty.
Juan Mata Celebrates Scoring Against Liverpool at Anfield. Image: Getty.

The win took the Red Devils back to within two points of second-placed neighbours Manchester City, fourth on the table with eight matches left this season.

Either manager named unchanged starting line-ups from last weekend, with Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Gerrard all starting from the bench.

The game against Liverpool was just a first of many tough matches for United in the league run-in with the likes of City, Chelsea and Arsenal lying in wait, hence, they needed a positive result from their trip to Anfield.

United snuck the flair out of Brendan Rodgers’ men who had arrived for kickoff as the only unbeaten team in 2015 in England.

Thousands of visiting supporters would hardly forget Marouaine Fellaini’s contribution in this game after the big Belgian bossed the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson around, as well as playing vital role in his own back alley during the less-certain closing stages of the encounter. The former Everton midfielder- employed as a supporting striker again- almost created the first opening of the game, but his headed-on pass could not find Mata in the attacking third and Mamadou Sakho cleared for safety.

Louis van Gaal’s men chalked the lead on 14 minutes as Ander Herrera exposed the out-of-position Alberto Moreno with a splitting pass, which Mata gracefully latched onto and finished across Simon Mignolet.

United continued to match their rivals in the passing game with Michael Carrick, fresh from signing a new one year contract extension, standing firm for his team-mates, winning possession and setting up free flowing assault.

Liverpool struggled to get the ball to Sturridge, employed as a lone striker, and when the England international managed to get at it from a tight angle, he volleyed wide.

The battle font was tipped to be that involving Blind and Raheem Sterling but with the England U-21 also struggling to find space, attention quickly shifted to the duel between Mata and Moreno, who had a torrid time curtailing the Spaniard.

Lallana drilled the last of the Reds’ first-half openings into the hoarding after meeting a Sturridge pass from 12 yards.

Gerrard had scored seven goals in his last 11 Premier League games against United but there was not to be an eighth for the ex-England skipper, as he received his marching order barely one minute into the second half for stamping Herrera on his shin.

Van Gaal, hoping to exploit the extra space, introduced Angel Di Maria and the Argentine needed four minutes to send a clever chip to Mata, who backpedal into a favourable position to send an acrobatic volley into the far corner from inside the box.

Moments later, Di Maria had another opportunity to close in on Liverpool’s crumbling defence, but his splitting pass missed the duo of Rooney and Mata.

The hosts’ response to the numerical disadvantage was likewise awesome and Sturridge smartly beat David de Gea at his near post from Coutinho’s pass to reduce the arrears. They tried getting back in the game but could not find the clinical edge to penetrate United’s defence.

And when Can bundled Blind down in the goal area, Mignolet correctly dived to his right to keep Rooney’s resultant spot-kick, yet, Mata’s brace was enough to open up a five point lead over Liverpool for United.