Liverpool Club Focus – Gerrard stars on return but Reds forced to settle for a draw

Lively Liverpool out-passed and outclassed arch-rivals Manchester United in a relatively entertaining clash at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, but in the end the Merseyside outfit were made to settle for a 1-1 draw against the current Premier League champions. Sir Alex Ferguson had branded the fixture as being the ‘biggest club game in the world’ prior to the match, though few will have agreed with that statement after a lacklustre first-half. Things did get tasty after the break however, as Steven Gerrard scored a terrific 68th minute free-kick, only for the Reds to concede one themselves with just nine minutes to go and thus fail to close the gap on the Red Devils.

In truth, Kenny Dalglish will have been somewhat unhappy that his side failed to make the most of their opportunities. The opening period was shaded by Liverpool and in the second-half the home side had 10 shots on goal and were by far the more aggressive team. In contrast, United only managed seven shots in the entire game. The hosts would have entered the dressing room at full-time disappointed with a draw – a sign of just how far Liverpool have come in just a year.

Gerrard was arguably the Reds’ most influential player and there was little surprise when the former England captain, starting his first game in over six months, opened the scoring with a clever free-kick midway through the second-half. The Liverpool skipper, who occupied a central position and also drifted out wide on the right-hand side over the course of the 90 minutes, was lively throughout and his display will have shown his critics that he is not ‘past it’ just yet.

He said: “It was almost the perfect way to mark my return to the team. To be leading against Manchester United with 10 minutes to go, the lads are a bit gutted we didn’t hang on and take maximum points. But they are a very good side and very dangerous, so we’re happy with the point. It’s a point gained rather than two lost.”

Unfortunately, much of the post-match talk has been about claims from United left-back Patrice Evra that Liverpool’s star striker Luis Suarez racially abused him during the game. Suarez and Evra were seen to be in heated conversation on various occasions during the match and the French defender made the referee aware of the alleged incident after the game. A Liverpool spokesman said: “Luis is adamant that he has not used language of that nature and the club is totally supportive of the player.” Suarez himself added: “I’m upset by the accusations of racism. I can only say that I have always respected, and respect, everybody. We are all the same.”

There will be an FA inquiry into the allegations and if found guilty, Suarez could face a ban. According the Guardian, Liverpool would want to see Evra face disciplinary proceedings himself should such a serious accusation later be dropped.

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