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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Premiership, Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United

Late O'Shea show keeps Manchester United on target
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United have got lucky in the Premiership title race after his 10-men snatched a dramatic 1-0 win at Liverpool on Saturday.

Manchester United were under pressure for long spells of the second half at Anfield and were clinging on for a point after Paul Scholes was sent off with eight minutes remaining for aiming a punch at Xabi Alonso. But John O'Shea fired home from close range in the 90th minute after Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina spilled Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick.

John Arne Riise was within inches of putting Liverpool ahead after 26 minutes, sending a low, driven free-kick narrowly wide. Manchester United escaped again four minutes later when Craig Bellamy robbed the uncertain Nemanja Vidic, but his cross flashed along the six-yard line with Dirk Kuyt unable to apply the final touch.

Liverpool were rarely troubled, although Jamie Carragher had to intervene bravely to deny Rooney as he shaped to shoot inside the area. The momentum was all with Liverpool as the second half started - and they did everything but score as United were pinned back.

Steven Gerrard shot over from 12 yards, and Bellamy forced a save from Van der Sar low down before having a close-range effort ruled out for offside. Riise then fired a rising drive just over the top from 25 yards as Liverpool dominated a strangely lack-lustre United.

The game had become a disappointing stalemate, with United replacing an ineffective Henrik Larsson - on his final Premiership appearance before returning to Helsingborg - with Louis Saha. And Manchester United suffered a blow with 18 minutes left when Rooney limped off with a gashed leg and injury to his knee after a high challenge with Carragher.

Saha was at the centre of penalty claims with 12 minutes left when he tumbled under a challenge from Daniel Agger, but referee Martin Atkinson was unmoved.

Manchester United then threatened a smash-and-grab when the previously unemployed Reina needed to scoop away a header from Ronaldo. Scholes and Alonso had been involved in a succession of spats, and Scholes saw red after he raised his hand in the direction of the Spanish midfield man though no contact was made.

Van der Sar then produced a pivotal moment, diving acrobatically to his left to palm away Crouch's shot.

And just as United seemed happy to settle for a point, Reina dropped Ronaldo's free-kick at the feet of O'Shea, who slammed his finish into the roof of the net.

Manchester United's Boss Alex Ferguson:

"Without question this is a massive result for us," Ferguson said. "We were very lucky today. Liverpool upset our rhythm a bit and we had a lot of narrow escapes."

"But that happens in championships. Last week at Fulham was a great example of that when we broke away and scored in the last couple of minutes. Today we've broken away and scored in the last minute or so."

"You need that bit of luck to win a championship, there is no question about it and we've got that in the last couple of weeks."

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko (Crouch 79), Gonzalez (60 Aurelio), Kuyt, Bellamy (Pennant 69).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia.

Bookings: Alonso 41, Carragher 72.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (Silvestre 63), Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney (O'Shea 73), Larsson (Saha 67).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Brown.

Sent off: Scholes 86.

Bookings: Carrick 43, Neville 81.

Goal: O'Shea 90.

Premiership Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United extended highlights: