FA Cup - United spoil Dalglish's Liverpool return

Sun, 09 Jan 15:32:00 2011

Manchester United ruined Kenny Dalglish's return to Liverpool, winning 1-0 in a controversial FA Cup third round tie at Old Trafford.

- 0

The only goal came from a penalty awarded after 30 seconds and converted by Ryan Giggs in the second minute, before referee Howard Webb sent off Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard just after the half-hour mark.

Liverpool were left to bemoan Webb's centrality to proceedings, while United claimed victory over their arch-rivals without playing anywhere near their best.

Roy Hodgson's sacking on Saturday, and his replacement by Anfield legend Dalglish, was supposed to add spice to an already mouthwatering meeting of arch-rivals, but apart from the two big incidents it was a strangely subdued encounter.

United were missing several first-teamers, not least ex-Evertonian Wayne Rooney and captain Nemanja Vidic, who was sent off in three consecutive games against Liverpool.

Dalglish made five changes from the side that lost 3-1 at Blackburn, but despite that slightly misleading statistic Liverpool were set up in much the same way as Roy Hodgson's sides.

Fabio Aurelio, Martin Kelly, Dan Agger, Raul Meireles and Dirk Kuyt came in; Glen Johnson was among the players to drop out after his wife went into labour.

The old cliche says it is better to be a lucky manager than a good manager, and Dalglish's luck deserted him within 30 seconds of the kick-off.

Dimitar Berbatov took the ball beyond Agger, who made slight contact with a late challenge. Berbatov took a step before collapsing to the turf, and Webb pointed to the spot.

The decision will be hotly debated and looked marginal, but a cannier defender than Agger would not have made his ill-advised lunge.

Giggs took the spot-kick, and guided the ball past Reina's dive into the right corner of the net.

Liverpool had an immediate chance to hit back when they broke through three-on-two, but Kuyt's pass to Fernando Torres lacked accuracy and the striker's eventual shot was weak.

After that initial flurry of excitement, the game went oddly quiet, with both sides playing cautious, introspective football.

Then, just after the half-hour mark came Webb's second big decision.

Gerrard leapt into a challenge with Michael Carrick at great speed, using two feet and with his studs showing.

The laws are clear - excessive force equals a red card, even if you do take the ball.

Despite their numerical advantage, United did not come close to making it pay until the final minute of first-half stoppage time, when Jonny Evans headed a Giggs corner against the post.

The second half was a little better, as United initially tried to kill the game off. Javier Hernandez glanced a header just wide as the home side pushed forwards, but they relented and allowed Liverpool back into the game.

Torres had a shot blocked by Rio Ferdinand, while Ryan Babel came off the bench and tested Tomasz Kuszczak with a low, long shot.

Then Aurelio came closest of all, with a free-kick that Kuszczak clawed away on its way to the top-right corner.

United might have doubled their lead in a frantic minute that saw Reina make five quickfire saves from Berbatov (twice), Rafael (twice) and Giggs.

But eventually Liverpool tired, having played an hour with a man fewer, and United were able to pass their way through the last 10 minutes with hardly a scare.

No FA Cup fairytale for Dalglish, who can now concentrate on reviving his team's dismal Premier League form.

Alex Chick / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account