Writer: Gavin John Day
Date:Thursday September 26 2013
Capital One Cup
Liverpool bow out of this season's Capital One Cup at Old Trafford despite a lively performance which deserved more.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers fielded a strong line-up for the encounter and named only two changes from the side defeated by Southampton in the league on Saturday.
Chief amongst them was the reintroduction of maverick frontman Luis Suarez after his well documented, and lengthy, violent conduct suspension.
The Uruguayan replaced misfiring Spaniard Iago Aspas while at the back Jose Enrique returned at the expense of vice-captain Daniel Agger as the Merseysiders reverted to a 5-3-2/3-5-2 formation.
Perhaps as a result of the defensive reshuffle, Liverpool started nervously and needed Martin Skrtel to block Javier Hernandez from close range before a follow up effort from Nani flew fractionally wide of Simon Mignolet's post via a deflection.
The game quickly developed into a high tempo encounter with both sides enjoying possession in attacking areas but without creating too many clear cut openings.
United were edging it though as they strung together a series of corners which could easily have led to the game's opening goal.
20 mins in and the visitors had their first real chance of the evening and unsurprisingly it fell to a certain Mr Suarez.
United defender Jonny Evans misjudged a cross and the ball dropped invitingly for Suarez but the 26-year-old's touch took him too close to David de Gea and the goalkeeper managed to advance and smother.
The Reds were now growing into the game and neat link-up play by Suarez and Daniel Sturridge allowed the latter to strike for goal only to see the covering Evans thrust out a leg and concede just a corner.
Moments earlier the former Chelsea striker had appealed for a penalty when the ball struck the arm of a sliding Chris Smalling in the box. Referee Mark Clatternburg understandably ignored the claim however with the incident being adjudged a case of ball to hand rather than anything deliberate.
United were clearly on the back-foot as the game past the half hour mark and they continually needed their defence to cut out dangerous crosses from the flanks which looked destined for the back of the net.
In fairness to the hosts they did finish the half strongly but again decent openings remained sparse despite lots of industrious approach play from the likes of Wayne Rooney and the evergreen Ryan Giggs.
If the game had been the proverbial boxing match then Liverpool would certainly have been ahead on points at the break but of course in football that counts for nothing.
And so it was to prove within one minute of the restart when Hernandez was allowed to divert home a Rooney corner from close range after shaking free from the marking of Enrique.
The visitors responded positively to the setback and a nice passing move on the right involving Jordan Henderson, Suarez and Kolo Toure allowed the Ivorian defender to fizz over a low cross which was only narrowly out of the reach of Sturridge.
Victor Moses then created an even more promising opening when he robbed a dallying Evans to allow Henderson a sight of goal which the England international disappointingly wasted by poking wide.
At the other end Nani went to ground theatrically when chasing after his own touch alongside Henderson but Clattenburg was again rightly unmoved when it came to pointing to the spot.
Suarez was next to try his luck for the visitors but after good work to dispossess Smalling he dragged his effort from the edge of the area and had to be content with a corner.
A corner from which United conceivably could have had a second via a counter attack but Shinji Kagawa was too indecisive in possession and by the time he finally worked the ball forward to Nani the ample space in behind had been closed off.
The Japanese maestro did go close himself just after the hour mark with a stinging drive from distance which clipped the bar.
Some Liverpool fans present thought they had finally gained a deserved equaliser in the 70th minute but Suarez's neat turn and shot from a tight angle had only found the side netting.
Rodgers' side were all over the hosts at this point and somehow Moses missed the best chance of the night when his point blank diving header went straight at de Gea following Enrique's pinpoint lofted cross.
Seconds later and Suarez thumped the crossbar with a free-kick which, had it not been for the thinnest of glances off Phil Jones' head, surely would have nestled in the back of the net.
As the Reds become more desperate, openings on the break for the hosts inevitably increased; Rooney twice stung the palms of Mignolet and full-back Alex Buttner became the latest to claim a penalty after being caught in a Toure-Skrtel sandwich.
A further late burst of Liverpool pressure forced a scrambling save from de Gea to keep out Henderson's miss hit cross before a scuffed Toure strike was close to going in off Sturridge at the far post.
Ultimately the equaliser did not materialise and United gained revenge for their recent league defeat at Anfield by the same scoreline.
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Date:Thursday September 26 2013
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