Sports - Football - Premier League - Man Utd 3:2 Liverpool
What a show - a show of two very different halves! Liverpool started frail and clumsy as always against a strong and pacey United side and just when it looked like they were going to make a comeback and take the sting out of United's surge, their Bulgarian striker upset the Scousers' plans with a hat-trick, the first United player in 64 years to do so against Liverpool.
The Red Devils took the lead in the 42nd minute after a comfortable half against a below-par Liverpool side, Dimitar Berbatov heading a corner in, Fernando Torres covering the striker on the wrong side and looking like a very bad and sad marker behind him. Paul Konchesky seemed to have handled the ball before it crossed the line, in an apparent attempt to save it, but nobody noticed or cared as the ball passed and the goal stood anyway.
Torres showed a weak display again, falling and moaning, not knowing what to do with the ball the few times it came his way, again looking like he wanted to be everywhere else but on the football pitch, a too familiar sight this season.
The second half United continued to dominate, Nani's explosive shot from the right edge of the box hitting the right post. Berbatov doubled the lead on 59 with a brilliant overhead shot off a Darren Fletcher cross from the right which looked impossible but went in off the crossbar past a motionless Pepe Reina, definite candidate for goal of the season.
Roy Hodgson made his first change, bringing on David Ngog for an inconspicuous Maxi Rodriguez and changing the formation to two up front. Only seconds later, Jonny Evans conceded a penalty with a needless tackle on Torres, Fletcher pointlessly ranting on about the decision to referee Howard Webb and had to be ushered away.
Skipper Steven Gerrard netted the spot kick comfortably sending Edwin van der Sar the wrong way. This finally got Liverpool's hopes and determination up and going, leading to some feisty action and attacks and a bulk of crunches, tackles and bookings. The game picked up in pace and atmosphere.
John O'Shea was lucky not be sent off when he was the last man to bring down Torres just outside the box. Booked and a free kick conceded, it was between him and Fletcher whom Gerrard squeezed the ball, curling it past them and into the back of the net and making the impossible possible - could Liverpool grab a win?
At 2-2 the chances for a perfect comeback looked much better than only ten minutes before the free kick at 2-0. It was United who looked all over the place, as if they were impersonating the Liverpool side of the first half.
Changes were made to save at least the one point for the Scousers, but Berbatov thought and made sure otherwise heading O'Shea's cross over Jamie Carragher, past Reina into the back of the net six minutes from time.
It is still zero points in the end for Liverpool, their worst start to a season in 18 years, down to 16th in the league, the situation looks everything else but rosey, but at least they showed some determination and will to fight back and win it, which has been missing of them most of the season so far.
Meanwhile Sir Alex Ferguson will be relieved that his side didn't throw away the points again like against Everton last week, his side up and comfortable in third, three points ahead of Tottenham and one behind Chelsea at the top (before their game in hand against Blackpool).
Man Utd: Van der Sar; O'Shea (booked 69), Vidic, Evans (booked 63), Evra; Nani (Gibson 88), Fletcher, Scholes (booked 68), Giggs (Macheda 82); Berbatov (goals 41:23, 58:36 & 83:36) (Anderson 88), Rooney (booked 57). 4-4-2
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Brown, Owen, Smalling.
Liverpool team: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky (Agger 82); Maxi (Ngog 62, booked 66), Poulsen, Meireles (Jovanovic 79), Cole; Gerrard (goals 63:38 pen & 69:50), Torres. 4-5-1 (to 4-4-2 with Ngog)
Subs not used: Jones, Babel, Kyrgiakos, Lucas.
1st half stats
On target: 1-0
Free kicks: 3-9
2nd half stats
On target: 4-2
Free kicks: 6-7
Possession: 47%-53% (38); 49.5%-50.5%
Passing Success: 84.4%-83.2%
Action Areas: Man Utd 8%-54%-38% Liverpool (10)
Territorial Advantage: 59.8%-40.2%
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Dimitar Berbatov