A below-par and 10-man Liverpool lost 2-1 to Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday, with Steven Gerrard sent-off just seconds after coming on for the second-half.
Goals: Sturridge (69); Mata (14 & 59)
Sent-off: Gerrard (46)
Brendan Rodgers named an unchanged side from the 1-0 win at Swansea on Monday night, with Steven Gerrard once again starting on the substitutes’ bench.
The visit of United represented Liverpool’s biggest game of the season to date, as they looked to leapfrog their bitter rivals in the race for a top-four finish.
The game got off to an unsurprisingly frenetic start, on a glorious Merseyside afternoon, and it was United who enjoyed the better start.
In the 14th minute Louis van Gaal’s side deservedly took the lead. Juan Mata raced through in front of the Kop and finished clinically past Simon Mignolet.
Daniel Sturridge‘s ambitious volley soon after was the Reds’ first real chance of note, and it had been an awful start by Rodgers’ men in all departments.
Michael Carrick tested Mignolet with a long-range strike seconds before the interval, but it was Mata’s goal that was the difference after 45 minutes.
Steven Gerrard replaced Lallana for the second-half, following another ineffective display from the 26-year-old, as Liverpool desperately looked to improve their Champions League hopes.
Unbelievably, the skipper was sent-off within a minute of coming on, after a reckless stamp on the Ander Herrera. It was a disastrous moment, and realistically signalled the end of the Reds’ chances on the day.
Coutinho sent a dipping effort over David de Gea’s crossbar, but the game was effectively put to bed in the 59th minute. Mata volleyed home a wonderful acrobatic effort, as Liverpool’s top-four hopes lay in tatters.
With 21 minutes remaining Daniel Sturridge‘s near-post effort gave the Reds hope, but despite a spirited end to the match, and a Mignolet save from Wayne Rooney’s stoppage-time penalty, they couldn’t avoid a damaging defeat to their biggest rivals.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Henderson, Allen, Moreno (Balotelli 65), Sterling, Lallana (Gerrard 46), Coutinho, Sturridge.
Subs not used: Jones, Johnson, Toure, Lucas, Lambert.
Man United starting XI: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Blind, Young, Herrera, Carrick, Mata, Fellaini, Rooney.
Referee: Martin Atkinson