Two-goal Reds earn win over Man Utd

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Daniel Sturridge scored the opener for Liverpool from the penalty spot against Manchester United. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Daniel Sturridge scored the opener for Liverpool from the penalty spot against Manchester United. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Liverpool appeared to put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Europa League after a confident display secured a comfortable 2-0 victory over arch rivals Manchester United at Anfield.

Much can yet happen in the second leg next week, but goals in either half by Daniel Sturridge from the penalty spot and Roberto Firmino in front of the Kop gave Liverpool a deserved victory in a match of great significance.

It was the first time these two heavyweights of English football had ever met in European competition, and Jurgen Klopp’s men outsmarted Louis Van Gaal’s side throughout.

The match began in a frantic fashion, and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was shown a yellow card inside the opening two minutes for a high foot on Manchester United’s Morgan Schneiderlin – one of six bookings.

It didn’t take long for the first pivotal moment to arrive when Liverpool were awarded a spot-kick in the 18th minute. Nathaniel Clyne raced onto a through ball into the box, only to be clumsily fouled by the flailing arm of Memphis Depay. Returning England striker Sturridge was handed the responsibility and stepped up to strike the ball firmly past David de Gea and into the left hand side of the goal with a cool finish.

Sturridge penalty clip by Leigh Kimmins, JMU Journalism

The goal seemed to increase Liverpool’s confidence infinitely, and another well-worked passing almost resulted in the second goal of the night as Sturridge found himself in space on the right before fizzing a low cross along the six-yard line. Unfortunately for the Reds, Philippe Coutinho’s limp effort from a tight angle was scrambled off the line by De Gea as United were handed an unlikely lifeline.

United were camped firmly in their own half for long periods, repelling attack after attack from their Merseyside counterparts.

Liverpool’s pressure nearly paid dividends moments later as Sturridge found himself free in the box after a midfield break, only for the onrushing De Gea, who repeatedly came to United’s rescue, to brilliantly block the shot from ten yards out.

Roberto Firmino scores for Liverpool from the penalty spot against Manchester United. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Roberto Firmino scores for Liverpool from the penalty spot against Manchester United. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Liverpool eventually doubled their lead in the 73rd minute as Firmino stabbed the ball past De Gea and into the roof of the net from close range after an error from Michael Carrick allowed Adam Lallana the opportunity to lay the ball on a plate for the Brazilian.

It provided a well-deserved cushion for the Reds going into next Thursday’s return leg at Old Trafford, though the game stagnated somewhat in the closing stages as United huffed and puffed in their search for an away goal, but to no avail.

Liverpool fans rubbed salt in United’s wounds by ironically cheering every pass as the Reds knocked the ball around their opponents with consummate ease.

It was a case of job well done for Liverpool, who have put themselves in a fantastic position to progress. For United on the other hand, they left themselves with a mountain to climb – and a goalkeeper to thank – after a lacklustre 90 minutes.

Firmino goal reaction clip by Leigh Kimmins, JMU Journalism

About Michael Henry, JMU Journalism