Javier Hernandez came off the bench to rescue a point for Manchester United and maintained their unbeaten start to the season after Steven Gerrard’s goal on his first start of the season looked to have handed Liverpool victory at Anfield.
The Mexican replaced Phil Jones in the 76th minute tasked with finding an equaliser and he took only five minutes to save United’s skin heading in Danny Wellbecks flick and cancelling out Gerrard’s opener ending a run of three consecutive defeats on Merseyside. It was another tactical triumph for Sir Alex Ferguson with the Scot also sidelining Wayne Rooney after his red card for England in Montenegro eight days ago. His relief at the final whistle was evident and he knows his side could easily have come away empty handed after Gerrard broke the deadlock on 68 minutes squeezing a low free kick through the United wall after Rio Ferdinand had hauled down Charlie Adam just outside the penalty area. Kenny Dalglish’s men could have won it late on if Jordan Henderson had kept his composure and buried one of the two chances he had but the visitors held on to claim a vital point which will go a long way towards their aspirations of winning a 20th Premier League title.
The rivalry that surrounded this fixture has certainly intensified in the last 12 months with John W. Henry’s takeover at Anfield giving Liverpool the financial strength to compete with their rivals at the top flight summit. Dalglish’s summer splurge has yet to fully pay dividends as they look to draw level with United in terms of championships after they moved onto 19 following last seasons title win. The intent was there for all to see with Gerrard restored to the starting eleven for the first time seven months and giving the Reds an extra dash of inspiration in midfield whilst their opponents were missing their talisman with Wellbeck shouldering the striking duties for United. They certainly had David de Gea to thank at the other end with the Spaniard silencing his critics with a series of quality saves as Liverpool piled on the pressure late in the game.
Despite the multi-million pound talent on show the opening stages of the game were nothing to shout home about with Phil Jones having the visitors best chance tamely heading Patrice Evra’s cross wide from close range. Gerrards influence in the game started to grow as the first half wore on and the Liverpool skippers whipped cross caused mass panic in the United area. The best opportunity for the hosts fell to the industrious Suarez with the Uruguayan controlling Adam’s deflected shot and cleverly wrong footing Jonny Evans only for De Gea to thwart him with a super save. The home side had the momentum after the break and opened the scoring with just over 20 minutes to go through Gerrard. The Reds skipper struck his free kick low through the wall with Ryan Giggs’ untimely jump allowing the ball to get through and find the bottom corner of De Gea’s goal as Rooney and Nani waited to join the action from the substitutes bench.
Ferguson was clearly frustrated as the hosts moved close to victory throwing Hernandez on with 14 minutes remaining. It paid off instantly with the Mexican displaying his predatory nature in the penalty area turning in Wellbeck’s flick from a corner to send the travelling fans wild in the away end. It was then down to De Gea to keep United level clawing away Dirk Kuyt’s angled drive before denying Henderson with a smart stop as they survived a late Liverpool onslaught to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.