Premier League - United battle to a point at Anfield

Sat, 15 Oct 14:40:00 2011

Manchester United fought back to claim a 1-1 draw over Liverpool in their Premier League clash at Anfield.

Liverpool 1 Man Utd 1

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard marked his first start of the season with the opening goal from a 68th-minute free-kick, only for substitute Javier Hernandez to grab the equaliser for the reigning champions soon after entering the fray with nine minutes remaining.

The point is of limited use for either side. Liverpool missed out on the chance to move into the top four ahead of the weekend's other fixtures, while United are now two points behind neighbours Manchester City following their 4-1 win over Aston Villa later on Saturday.

Both managers had a major piece of team news to break before the kick-off. Kenny Dalglish confirmed reports that Gerrard would start for the first time since March, while Alex Ferguson sprang a surprise by naming Wayne Rooney on the bench, citing his "devastated" frame of mind following the three-match international suspension handed to him by UEFA. Nani and Hernandez were also left out of a workmanlike XI featuring Danny Welbeck as a lone striker.

United went into the 183rd league meeting between these two sides having lost on their last three league visits to Anfield, but it was the champions who started marginally the brighter.

Phil Jones was given the brief of midfield destroyer, but he still managed to make the odd run forward of which he is so adept. One such foray saw him meet Patrice Evra's chipped cross to the far post, only for the teenager to head into the sidenetting.

Considering the grand occasion that any North West derby is, this instalment had a rather flat feel about it until Liverpool began to find their footing midway through the first half.

With Rooney absent from the outset, it was left to Liverpool's own star forward Luis Suarez to provide the excitement. The Uruguayan made an intelligent run to the near post as Liverpool took a corner short, Gerrard's eventual whipped cross just flashing behind the number seven.

Suarez looked a constant menace, constantly hustling and scheming as he didn't give United's defenders a second's rest. His work looked to have paid off when Charlie Adam's surging run forward saw the ball bounce kindly into his path. Suarez twisted and turned past Rio Ferdinand and looked odds-on to score, only to see his strike blocked by the torso of David de Gea.

While neither manager made changes at the break, both sides emerged with renewed vigour. Soon after the restart Ashley Young was fouled by Lucas Leiva and his subsequent free-kick stung the palms of Pepe Reina.

Liverpool then had an ambitious claim for a penalty turned down when Dirk Kuyt - who scored all three goals in the 3-1 win over United on the same ground back in March - saw his header ricochet off the arm of Jonny Evans, but referee Andre Marriner ruled it was ball-to-hand.

Rio Ferdinand picked up a rare booking for a foul on Adam, and midway through the half the England defender again conceded a free-kick to the Scotsman after Adam had embarked on a weaving surge forward. Ferdinand was spared a second booking, which was perhaps just as well considering he barely made contact with the Liverpool midfielder.

Gerrard struck his free-kick at the wall, but Ryan Giggs moved enough for it to sneak through and beat the unsighted De Gea.

Ferguson responded by bringing on Rooney, Nani and later Hernandez, and it was the Mexican's 77th-minute introduction that proved most telling. Just four minutes after coming on, Chicharito met Danny Welbeck's flick-on from a corner and headed past Reina from close range for his third league goal of the season.

Liverpool rallied and had chances to win through Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, but the final whistle saw a justified sharing of the points.

Tony Mabert - on Twitter at @tony_mabert / Eurosport

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