x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Liverpool's fab four stun United

Liverpool reduce Manchester United's lead at the top of the Premier League with a resounding victory at Old Trafford.

Manchester United's John O'Shea, right, fights for the ball with Liverpool's Fernando Torres.
Manchester United's John O'Shea, right, fights for the ball with Liverpool's Fernando Torres.

Liverpool scored four fantastic goals but it was their terrific two, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, who stole the show yesterday, breathing fresh life into the Premier League title race yesterday and showing that, in tandem, they can destroy any team. Manchester United were the latest victims of a devastating double act who inspire Rafa Benitez's side to heights that seem beyond their reach. Both were on target, along with Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena, to settle this pulsating Old Trafford showdown which suggests the title race is far from over. What was even more impressive about Liverpool's victory was that they came from behind to achieve it, just like they did at Anfield back in September when they won 2-1. Carlos Tevez slipped a cute pass to Ji-sung Park and he tumbled in the penalty area as Pepe Reina needlessly rushed out to block his route to goal. Cristiano Ronaldo was calm, rifling the ball into the net for his 13th goal of the season in the 23rd minute. The statistics read that in 48 previous games when Ronaldo had scored at Old Trafford, United had won. An ominous sign for a Liverpool side who had to draft in the veteran Sami Hyypia for Alvaro Arbeloa, the victim of a hamstring injury in the warm-up. But Rafa's Reds are made of sterner stuff and, still on a high after their devastating 4-0 Champions League victory over Real Madrid in midweek, they responded with a gutsy and gallant display. Nemanja Vidic has been a defensive powerhouse for United over the past two seasons, but Torres added him to the list of centre-backs he has left tormented. A long ball by Martin Skrtel should have been a routine clearance for Vidic, but the Serbian was both hesitant and hapless as Torres muscled the ball off him and sped clear before coolly slotting past Edwin van der Sar. It was the Spanish striker's 11th goal of the season, but just imagine how many he could have scored if he had not spent most of the campaign injured. Torres then turned provider for Gerrard in a pivotal moment just before half time. Patrice Evra brought down the Liverpool captain as he latched on to the striker's pass. Gerrard whipped the penalty into the corner. Van der Sar had not been beaten at home since Hull put three past him back in November, and that mark was matched in the 76th minute when Aurelio curled a free-kick past him. It followed the dismissal of Vidic for a professional foul on Gerrard, who was throughon goal when he was held back. The red card summed up Vidic's day and the mood turned uglier when Dossena lobbed van der Sar for another goal in the final minute. Defeat was United's worst at home since QPR beat them by the same score back in 1992. That season they also faltered in the title race, allowing Leeds to pip them after holding the advantage. As Benitez celebrates a notable Liverpool double over their rivals to close the gap to four points, he will be hoping history repeats itself. akhan@thenational.ae