LIVERPOOL: Manchester United suffered a first defeat under David Moyes as his initial return to Liverpool since his summer departure from Everton and Goodison Park brought a 1-0 upset.
Liverpool were pursing an appropriate reason to celebrate tomorrow’s centenary of the birth of legendary manager Bill Shankly though they did not cover themselves in glory off the pitch, failing to find a seat in the directors’ box for Roy Hodgson, the England manager. Hodgson was not impressed to be given a seat just in front of the press box.
That was not his only disappointment. Hodgson had learned on his way to Anfield that United’s Wayne Rooney will miss both World Cup qualifying times at home to Moldova at Wembley on Friday and then away to Ukraine next Tuesday. England need to win both matches to maintain hope of going direct to the finals in Brazil next year.
Rooney had needed 10 stitches in a head gashed in a training ground clash with Phil Jones which meant that, first of all, he missed the Liverpool game.
His absence was keenly felt by United, bearing in mind his busily impressive contribution during last Monday’s goalless draw with Chelsea. United – and probably England – were also weakened by a foot injury which forced the substitution of the luckless Jones during the first half.
Liverpool capitalised on Rooney’s absence to seize early command and take a fourth-minute lead. Steven Gerrard’s corner was flicked on by Daniel Agger and man of the match Daniel Sturridge popped the ball home from close range for his ninth goal in eight games. It was perfect gift on his 24th birthday.
United began the second half with new-found fire. Robin Van Persie had a shot deflected for a corner, followed by another then an Ashley Young drive was blocked by Glen Johnson. Danny Welbeck then complained in anger at being denied a penalty claim.
Referee Andre Marriner allowed the match to run into five minutes of stoppage time but this time there was no late resurrection by United and thus Moyes still awaits a first managerial victory at Anfield after 13 visits.
Moyes said: “We played well but we didn’t finish it off or get the best quality ball into the penalty box. We had three or four chances but just couldn’t quite finish it off.”
Liverpool, with three wins in three games, have recorded their best start to a season since the managerial days of Roy Evans in 1994-95 and, including the end of last term, this is the first time they have won five consecutive Premier League matches since 2008-09.
Not only that: all this has been achieved without Luis Suarez who still has two games to serve of his suspension for biting Chelsea’s Brane Ivanovic towards the end of last season.
No wonder Brendan Rodgers was the manager with a broad smile on his face when Marriner blew the final whistle.
West Bromwich are still without a goal after losing 2-0 at home to Swansea on goals from Ben Davies (22 minutes) and Pablo Hernandez (83).