Liverpool 2-1 Man Utd
By Mandeep Sanghera
Ryan Babel (right) came on late on to net the winner at Anfield
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez earned his first Premier League win over Manchester United courtesy of Ryan Babel’s deserved late winner.
Carlos Tevez had stunned the Reds after three minutes by expertly sidefooting in a Dimitar Berbatov pull back.
United keeper Edwin Van der Sar palmed a clearance against Wes Brown and saw it roll into his net for the equaliser.
The Reds started to dominate and Babel scuffed in a shot for the winner before United’s Nemanja Vidic was sent off.
The victory was Benitez’s first in the top flight over United since he took over in the summer of 2004 and was achieved without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres in the starting line-up.
Despite their star men being on the bench after returning from injury, Liverpool produced a performance of real verve to turn around a match which looked out of their grasp during the opening stages.
Three points seemed unlikely after Benitez saw his side fall behind in worrying fashion after just three minutes as United debutant Berbatov made an immediate impact for his new team.
He was reunited with ex-Tottenham strike partner Robbie Keane at Anfield as the duo lined up on opposing sides at Anfield.
And, while Keane has struggled to make an impact for Liverpool, Berbatov had no such trouble.
He latched on to a clever ball by Anderson and pulled a ball back from the byeline for Tevez, who lost marker Javier Mascherano, to unerringly beat Pepe Reina.
Dirk Kuyt volleyed just wide for the home side but the Reds had been shaken by the goal as they struggled to come to terms with the passing and power of the visitors.
Van der Sar was the main weakness in his side’s dominance and gave a sign of things to come when he palmed a cross to Kuyt.
He redeemed himself by blocking the striker’s point-blank shot but had no such fortune shortly afterwards
The Dutchman bemusingly dived to punch the ball clear – after Xabi Alonso’s shot had deflected into the United box off Patrice Evra – only to push the ball against Brown and into the United net.
Just as the first goal drained Liverpool of their belief, the leveller had the reverse effect, although they escaped a scare when Tevez put a shot over at the near post from a low Anderson cross.
The home fans were also buoyed by the goal and their team’s play and tried to inspire them to greater heights after the break.
Liverpool responded by taking a stranglehold on the game and Keane chipped a ball to put Benayoun through on goal.
But the Israeli’s control took him a little wide and allowed Van der Sar to block his acute angled shot.
Berbatov had become a peripheral figure for the visitors as they struggled to find the form with which they started the match.
But, despite being on the backfoot, they did gave a warning of their counter-attacking threat as a dipping Ryan Giggs strike was tipped over following Gerrard’s loss of possession.
Tevez stunned Liverpool with his early goal
Liverpool continued to push and probe and were rewarded when Mascherano stole the ball from Giggs as he tried to shepherd it out of play for a goal-kick.
The Argentine passed to Kuyt and he found an unmarked substitute Babel, whose shot bounced before going into the United goal to send the home crowd into raptures.
Vidic’s dismissal for a second bookable offence on 90 minutes compounded United’s misery after he lead with his elbow while contesting an aerial challenge with Alonso.
Liverpool, meanwhile, briefly moved top of the Premier League until Chelsea overtook them on goal difference after beating Manchester City in an evening game.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
“The fans deserved the win and so do the players after their fantastic work-rate and effort they have put in.
“We played better after the break after conceding an early goal in the first-half. It was a good game and we deserved to win.”
Manchester United assistant boss Mike Phelan:
“We were only in the game for seven or eight minutes and after that we did not perform.
“They bossed us out of the game and their tactics worked as they put us under pressure.
“We never responded and we did not react after the break and we succumbed to the pressure.
“We did not take control of the game and we struggled and now we have to get back to basics.”
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun (Gerrard 68), Alonso, Mascherano (Hyypia 87), Riera (Babel 71), Kuyt, Keane.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Torres, Ngog.
Goals: Brown 27 og, Babel 77.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Rooney, Scholes (Hargreaves 66), Carrick (Giggs 46), Anderson (Nani 78), Tevez, Berbatov.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Evans, O’Shea, Fletcher.
Sent Off: Vidic (90).
Booked: Tevez, Vidic, Nani.
Goals: Tevez 3.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Carlos Tevez on 7.51 (on 90 minutes).
Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport’s Player Rater after the match has finished.