Liverpool battered Manchester United for over an hour. The visitors weathered the storm and came away with all three points.
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Wayne Rooney scored his first goal at Anfield since 2005 in the 78th minute and the Red Devils topped Liverpool 1-0 despite a massive shot disparity thanks to Liverpool’s endless pressing.
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Both teams started off with high intensity but low risk in the opening few minutes. The first big chance came in the 10th minute when a long ball over the top fell right to a breaking Adam Lallana who had split the center backs. Lallana tried to touch the ball over a charging David De Gea, and while the initial effort was saved, it came back to Lallana and his touch found Philippe Coutinho whose low shot hit the post and skittered wide.
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Liverpool took control of the attacking play, and tempers flared as Marouane Fellaini and Lucas got into it on the touchline, helping to add to the tense nature of the match.
The game progressed as players showcased a number of creative ideas, but few of them also had the needed execution to go with it. Anthony Martial cut the ball through the Liverpool defense to find Ander Herrera on 30 minutes but his shot went well wide. A minute later Liverpool broke out a sexy bit of one-touch passing in the box but Jordan Henderson put it across the face of goal just wide.
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The movement of the Liverpool midfield gave United defenders all kinds of troubles, but the Reds couldn’t get a good shot off. Firmino had a brilliant chance to put an effort on net on the break in the 38th minute but failed to pull the trigger and the defense recovered. On the other end, United’s passing was sloppy and they struggled to create anything in front of goal.
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Not much changed after halftime, as Liverpool continued to create with few results. Lallana found Emre Can at a tight angle, but his shot was saved by De Gea’s right leg. The Reds press held the United midfield at bay, and the visitors had little going forward. Their first real chance came on 56 minutes as Rooney fumbled a good find from substitute Cameron Borthwick-Jackson but picked out Anthony Martial, but his shot from a tight angle went wide.
The home side thought they were in on 65 minutes as Emre Can burst forward and produced a superb shot that locked onto the far corner, but De Gea matched it with a full-stretch save, and he recovered in time to palm the rebound shot from Firmino as well.
Van Gaal brought on Juan Mata as Manchester United looked for any kind of attacking presence against Liverpool’s tireless press. It would come on 78 minutes. They earned a corner, and it was played short to Mata who sent in a pinpoint cross that met the towering head of Fellaini. The initial effort clattered the crossbar, but the rebound fell to Rooney who athletically twisted his hips around to unleash a powerful volley, roofing the ball into the back of the net for a late 1-0 lead.
Liverpool poured players forward in a desperate attempt to even things up, but it was to no avail. Manchester United pulled out all three points and move up to fifth place with 37 points, opening a six-point gap above Liverpool who remains in ninth with 31 points.