Man Utd 1-0 Liverpool
Kenny Dalglish was refused a winning start to his Anfield reign as Manchester United ran out 1-0 victors over 10-man Liverpool in a controversial FA Cup third-round blockbuster at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.
The Reds were no doubt hoping for a revival at the Theatre of Dreams after manager Roy Hodgson departed the club on Saturday following a dismal opening to the campaign, with Liverpool legend Dalglish succeeding him at the helm until the end of the season.
But the new boss had already stated on his Merseyside arrival there would be no quick fix to Liverpools' woes this season, and weight was added to his words as the beleaguered Reds were sent crashing out of the cup in a mouth-watering clash between the bitter rivals.
The explosive encounter was governed by two giant, and perhaps questionable, decisions from referee Howard Webb, the first coming after just 33 seconds as Dimitar Berbatov won a dubious spot-kick off a Daniel Agger challenge in the area, which veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs made no mistakes in converting.
Tension at Old Trafford then reached breaking point just after the half-hour mark when captain Steve Gerrard lunged in with a heavy tackle on Michael Carrick and was handed a straight red card by Webb for his troubles to leave the Reds with a real mountain to climb.
Both sides enjoyed spells of pressure in a thrilling second half, but it was United who ultimately advanced to the fourth round to heap more woe on an already disappointing Liverpool season.
Dalglish was quick to put his stamp on the side ahead of the match, making five changes to his Reds line-up.
Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles were introduced to the Liverpool midfield, with Martin Kelly, Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger all included in a much-changed defensive line-up from the one that suffered a dismal evening at Blackburn on Wednesday when they lost 3-1.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had vowed to field his strongest side, but the reality was slightly different, with Edwin van der Sar, Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic not involved at all, while Brazilian midfielder Anderson was on the bench.
Jonny Evans was handed his first start since the Carling Cup defeat at West Ham, while the in-form Javier Hernandez partnered Berbatov up front.
The latter was at the centre of the early drama just seconds after the opening whistle when referee Webb pointed to the spot after he went down cheaply in the area off an Agger challenge.
Veteran Giggs kept his cool and powered the penalty past Reds keeper Pepe Reina into the bottom right-hand corner to put the hosts 1-0 up after just two minutes - a difficult scoreline for Liverpool to deal with so early on.
An opportunity for redemption came soon after as Fernando Torres was handed a golden chance from close-range, but the misfiring striker fluffed his effort to send the ball trickling wide.
The first yellow card of the game was then handed to the hosts as Darren Fletcher went in Webb's book after tussling with Dirk Kuyt in midfield, but it did little to dampen the home side's spirits in front of a home crowd still jubilant from the opening goal.
United were put under a spell of pressure after 20 minutes when they were forced to keep out three solid chances from the home side in quick succession.
The first came through Maxi Rodriguez, who evaded Patrice Evra to trouble Tomasz Kuszczak with a powerful shot from 20 yards which prompted the shot-stopper to fumble an unconvincing block.
Kelly then produced a lovely run down the right flank before firing a well-placed cross which would have found Torres near goal had Rio Ferdinand not intervened, while Gerrard maintained the heat seconds later with an optimistic effort from far out which he could not quite keep down.
Gerrard had another chance from the edge of the United box near the 30 minute mark, but failed to get enough power behind his attempt as Kuszczak stooped for a comfortable save.
But the midfielder's threat to the hosts was cut decisively short just two minutes later as he jumped in with a big two-footed challenge on Carrick, leaving the Red Devils man writhing on the floor.
Referee Webb took his time with the verdict but eventually reached for a straight red card, much to the fury of the visiting fans, to crown a first half full of drama at the Theatre of Dreams.
Half-baked chances came through Kuyt and Rodriguez for the Reds in the dying minutes before the break, but Gerrard's dismissal appeared to have taken the wind out of their sails.
Jonny Evans was then extremely unlucky not to double the scoreline for United seconds before half-time as he rattled the woodwork with his effort, but the home side were still boasting a 1-0 advantage as the whistle blew on the opening 45 minutes.
United were on the front foot from the off in the second half, with Hernandez and Berbatov enjoying a clutch of chances between them, the most threatening of which came when the Bulgarian fired a clear-cut opportunity into the stands from in front of the net.
Dalglish injected some firepower back into his side by bringing on Ryan Babel and Jonjo Shelvy in the 60th minute and the Reds instantly turned up the heat, with an intense spell of pressure ending in a storming Babel shot which Kuszczak had to battle to keep out.
That attempt fired a warning to the hosts that nothing was yet set in stone, and Liverpool maintained their assault as a well-executed Fabio Aurelio free-kick troubled the United shot-stopper again just four minutes later.
The Red Devils responded in force as a concentrated attacking spell, in which Giggs, Hernandez and Rafael all tried their luck, culminated in Evra brushing a solid effort just over the crossbar.
More substitutions on both sides saw David N'Gog replace the misfiring Torres and Michael Owen step in for Hernandez, a change that Ferguson almost instantly reaped rewards from as the veteran came close down the left-hand side.
Further chances came at either end, but United made the most of a formidable defence to maintain their lead and run out 1-0 winners to progress to the fourth round.
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