Premier League – Park heads United back to top
Fernando Torres opened the scoring for Liverpool early on before Pepe Reina saved a Wayne Rooney penalty, only for the England striker to tap in the rebound. United then completed the comeback to seal victory on the hour mark via a header from Park Ji-sung.
As ever, this fixture needed little added spice. However, not only was ground in both the title race and the fight for the final Champions League spot at stake, but there was also the added pressure on Liverpool to take their chance at stopping United sealing a 19th championship, surpassing the Anfield side’s haul of 18 titles.
Five minutes in, Torres won the ball in the centre circle, found Steven Gerrard with a backheel and continued his run forward. Gerrard fed Dirk Kuyt out on the right and the Dutchman chipped in a cross. Torres lost Gary Neville easily and rose unmarked to head past Edwin van der Sar for his 16th league goal of the season.
United were given the chance to level five minutes later when Antonio Valencia went down in the box after being fouled by Javier Mascherano. The initial foul looked to have been committed outside the area, but referee Howard Webb gave the penalty and booked the Argentine midfielder.
Rooney’s spot-kick was well saved by Reina, but the ball rebounded kindly for Rooney tap in his 33rd goal in all competitions.
The rest of the half was evenly contested, with a well-organised Liverpool coping well as United saw more of the ball. The home side’s chances were limited, with Reina tipping one effort from Nani round the foot of the post while Park sent one header wide and another over the bar.
After the break, both sides played in even more measured fashion, and the game was there for the taking for whichever team took the initiative. That side was United.
Rooney found Darren Fletcher wide on the right on the hour mark. The Scotland midfielder waited by Gary Neville’s overlapping run, which distracted Emiliano Insua long enough for him to curl in a cross that Park met with a decisive diving header.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez brought on Alberto Aquilani and Ryan Babel on with 15 minutes remaining, but they struggled to create any more clear openings as United sat back and defended their lead, confident of their ability to hit them on the break with a killer third goal if necessary.
Liverpool were presented with one gilt-edged chance to grab a share of the points in the final minute of the 90, but when the ball fell at the feet of Torres on the penalty spot the Spain striker scuffed his shot woefully. The ball looped up for Yossi Benayoun to head, but the ball was caught easily by van der Sar.
Tony Mabert / Eurosport