Super-sub Babel ends Liverpool's Man Utd misery
Monday, 15 September 2008

AFP, LIVERPOOL, England - Ryan Babel ended Liverpool's four-year wait for a league victory against Manchester United as Rafa Benitez's team fought back from a goal down to win 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday.

Carlos Tevez's third minute opener looked set to extend United's unbeaten run against their bitter rivals, but two defensive errors by the champions gifted Liverpool the victory before Nemanja Vidic was sent off for two bookings in the ninetieth minute, which will now rule him out next Sunday's clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
 
It had all started so well for United, with Dimitar Berbatov, making his United debut following his deadline day arrival from Tottenham, needing just three minutes to emphasise the qualities he will bring to Sir Alex Ferguson's squad.
 
The Bulgarian had already given an example of centre-forward abilities inside the opening minute when his shot from 12 yards was blocked by Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel. Skrtel appeared to block the shot with his trailing arm, but referee Howard Webb ruled out United's claims for a penalty.
 
Berbatov's presence did tee-up a United goal moments later, however, when he showed his awareness to pull the ball back to Tevez, who side-footed past goalkeeper Pepe Reina from 18 yards to score his second goal at Anfield in successive seasons.
 
With Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres both nursing slight injury problems on the substitutes' bench, Liverpool were without their two leading players as they attempted to overturn United's lead.
 
And the early signs were not good for Benitez's team as European champions United strutted around, looking likely to add to their lead before Liverpool could even get out of first gear.
 
But the home side managed to gain a foothold in the game with Javier Mascherano inspiring Liverpool with his energy and refusal to be overrun by United's powerful midfield.
 
The Argentinian was first to virtually every ball and he broke up United's momentum and allowed Liverpool to mount attacks of their own.
 
United rode their luck with Edwin van der Sar saving brilliantly from Dirk Kuyt, but the Dutch goalkeeper was at fault when Liverpool equalised on 26 minutes through Wes Brown's own goal.
 
Xabi Alonso's shot from 35 yards appeared harmless until it deflected off United defender Patrice Evra, but the ball should not have caused Van der Sar any serious problems.
 
But the veteran keeper over-stretched as he raced out to collect the ball and he could only palm the ball onto Brown's knees before seeing it bobble into the empty net.
 
To make matters worse for United, England midfielder Michael Carrick was then forced out of the game with an ankle injury following a challenge with Mascherano that resulted in him re-appearing in the dug-out after the break with the aid of crutches and a protective boot on his right foot.
 
Despite the absence of Gerrard and Torres, Liverpool grew in confidence in the second-half and they continued to push United back deep into their own territory.
 
But Irish forward Robbie Keane, still searching for his first Liverpool goal since his close season arrival from Spurs, failed to get behind the United defenders and it was United substitute Giggs that went closest to adding to the scoring with a 70th minute lob that was well saved by Reina.
 
Instead of winning the game for United, though, Giggs ultimately lost it for Ferguson's men when he allowed Mascherano to steal possession in the touchline in front of The Kop.
 
Giggs should have cleared, but Mascherano claimed the ball and squared to Babel, who netted from 12 yards to cap a dramatic Liverpool fightback.

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