Match report: Man Utd vs Liverpool

Match report: Man Utd vs Liverpool

Post by perri » Sun, 12 Apr 1998 04:00:00

April 18
Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1

Arsenal was the chief beneficiary of the result of one of the most crucial
matches of the Premiership when Manchester United was held 1-1 at home by
10-men Liverpool. The result left the Red Devils seven points clear at the
top, but the Gunners have 4 significant games in hand. The draw also just
about put paid to Liverpool's title challenge, and once again as in their
recent games at Hillsborough and White Hart Lane, they showed their battling
qualities without quite reaping the rewards as they should have had.

The first half was played at a frenetic pace, and a nervous Liverpool
defence nearly conceded the opening goal after just two minutes. Welshman
Ryan Giggs rode the challenge of Dominic Matteo and bore down clear on goal;
his effort was brilliantly saved by Brad Friedel and the follow-up by Paul
Scholes was cleared off the line by Phil Babb. But United did go ahead after
12 minutes; once again it was Liverpool's atrocious marking at a corner that
was at fault, and Ronny Johnsen rose unchallenged to head home David
Beckham's corner.

The Merseysides responded almost immediately when the quicksilver Michael
Owen skipped past two United defenders and chipped the ball past Peter
Schmeichel to Steve McManaman; the latter's effort was however blocked by
Gary Neville. As Liverpool settled into their attacking rhythm, the match
witnessed a dramatic five minutes near the end of the half. First on 36
minutes, Macca volleyed over the bar when he beat the United offside trap
and had only Schmeichel to beat.

Just seconds later, the Old Trafford faithful endured an frightening moment
of electrifying pace. Danny Murphy flicked on a header from a goal
clearance, Schmeichel hesitated in coming out to intercept it, and Owen
simply left Gary Pallister for dead in the race for the ball before flicking
it neatly over the Danish goalkeeper for the equaliser. But the drama was
not over yet, and Owen quickly turned villain when he dove in rashly to
challenge Johnsen for the ball on 40 minutes. The young England forward had
already been booked earlier for another bad tackle on Schmeichel, and
referee Graham Poll has no choice but to send him off. Johnsen himself was
sent to a hospital for an X-ray on his ankle.

The match changed with the sending-off and the loss of Giggs to a hamstring
injury earlier. For the remaining 50 minutes, United probbed patiently but
almost fruitlessly, and Liverpool defended stoutly. Until the end of the
game, it was the visitors who had the best chance to forge ahead. Murphy put
Oyvind Leonhardsen through on goal but his shot was tipped around the post
by Schmeichel. As in recent weeks, United looked jaded in attack and was
unable to unhinge an industrious Liverpool defence. The league leaders' best
chances came at the end of the game, when first, Rob Jones cleared an Andy
Cole back header off the line, and then Paul Scholes vollyed wide inside the
penalty box.

The draw leaves Arsenal with one hand on the league trophy, although of
course United remained significantly ahead on actual points gained. And the
Londoners still have to play Liverpool at Anfield in the last week of the
season. Liverpool's perfomance at Old Trafford, considering their recent
dismal record there, was heroic but which nonetheless left their title hopes
quite dead and buried. Paul Ince expectedly received a negative response on
his return to his former club, but he had a rather subdued game.

Considering that Liverpool played with just one striker for 40 minutes, and
none after that, their best player was young Danny Murphy, who impressed
with his holding and distribution of the ball and high work-rate.
Unfortunately the other Liverpool youngster was less composed in a match of
typical rivalry, pride and passion. Owen's red card and suspension would
certainly hurt Liverpool's push for a Champions League slot, with their main
strikers already out from injury. But more than that, it would leave England
coach Glenn Hoddle doubting his young prodigy's temperament and age and
whether to take him to the World Cup finals in France.

Liverpool squad (4-5-1): Friedel, Matteo, Babb, Jones, Harkness, Ince,
Redknapp, Leonhardsen, McManaman, Murphy (Berger 60), Owen (sent off after
40 minutes).

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