Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United: Ridiculous officiating costs Liverpool 3 points

Liverpool’s first home game since the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report should have been a momentous occasion, with Liverpool sealing their first League win of the season. Instead, some shamefully poor refereeing from Mark Halsey saw Liverpool lose 2-1 to Manchester United, courtesy of a late – undeserved – penalty, converted by Robin van Persie.

It should have been a day that belonged to Liverpool. Their first match at Anfield since the Hillsborough findings were released just so happened to be they faced their biggest rivals Manchester United, more commonly known as the greatest derby in the world. After Liverpool’s recent form, the majority expected United to win, but what transpired couldn’t have been predicted by even the most skilled practitioner of divination.

Liverpool dominated from the off and kept complete control, but still failed to exert their dominance by taking the lead, despite countless shots in the first half an hour.

Liverpool looked certain to score at some point, until 10 minutes before the break, when Jonjo Shelvey was controversially sent off after a tackle on United’s Johnny Evans. After taking the ball from Ryan Giggs, he overran it and tried to slide tackle the ball from Evans, and after Evans rolled around the floor ‘in agony’, referee Mark Halsey sent Shelvey off for serious foul play, despite replays showing Shelvey going in with one foot and winning the ball, while Evans went in with both feet and studs up, but managed to avoid punishment, even though referee was stood only a few feet away.

Liverpool were now down to 10 men going in to the second half, but captain Steven Gerrard soon reinstated Liverpool’s strength after a cross from league debutant Suso, who was brought on at half time for the injured Fabio Borini who suffered an ankle injury, was poorly cleared and ended up at the feet of wingback Glen Johnson, who took it past a couple of United players, chipped it to Steven Gerrard, who struck it past Anders Lindegaard with a left foot half volley to send Liverpool 1-0 up in front of the Kop End, pointing to sky as he celebrated in tribute to the 96.
It didn’t last long, however, as a poor defensive display allowed a cross from Antonio Valencia to be chested down in the box by Shinji Kagawa, to find the feet of Rafael, who defiantly hit it home to level the score at 1-1.

Liverpool had three obvious penalty calls, when Daniel Agger was pulled down in the hox, but play-on was waved by the referee. Luis Suarez was also brought down in the box, who was also given nothing, for Raheem Sterling to be heavily brought down in the box only seconds later to also be given the play-on decision. There was no way Liverpool were going to be given anything by this referee.

By this point, Liverpool would have gladly taken a point from their bitterest rivals, but Mark Halsey soon put a stop to that, when Antonio Valencia went down in the box at the other end, and Halsey immediately pointed to the spot. A ridiculously unfair decision, given that Agger, Sterling and Suarez were all taken down in the box under worse challenges and were given nothing. Subsequent replays showed that there was minimal, if any at all, contact from Glen Johnson on Antonio Valencia. Robin van Persie converted the penalty, making the final score 2-1, with Liverpool still looking for a league win under Brendan Rodgers.

Liverpool were dealt even more injury woes as prior to United’s penalty, a collision between Johnson and Agger on the halfway line resulted in Agger going down in obvious pain clutching his left knee, after suffering damage to his medial collateral ligament, a ligament that is critical to the stability of the knee joint, an injury that could prematurely end his season, a situation that scream echoes of the lay-off Lucas Leiva suffered last season. Martin Kelly also suffered a knee injury, leaving Liverpool with 9 men on the field in last 10 minutes, an injury that will most probably keep him out of action until the new year.

With their lack of activity in the dying hours of the summer transfer window, Liverpool are already extremely short staffed, and if Borini, Agger and Kelly all suffer lengthy lay-offs, Liverpool fans could be waiting a while for that first win they so desperately need. They have only managed so far to take 2 points from a possible 15, and if vast improvements are not exercised soon, the prospect of the Anfield outfit facing relegation could be more of a reality than originally thought.


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