Liverpool beats Man United 2-0 to end losing run
Fernando Torres scored on his return from injury as Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 in the Premier League on Sunday to halt the club's worst losing streak in 22 years and relieve the pressure on manager Rafa Benitez. Benitez only decided to start Torres while traveling on the coach to the ground, but the gamble paid off when he broke the deadlock in the 65th minute with his first goal in a month. The Spain striker, who still struggled with the adductor strain that had ruled him out of the past two matches, collected Yossi Benayoun's throughball and shook off Rio Ferdinand before lashing a shot past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. "We were waiting for that final pass, and when it came we knew he would score," Benitez said. "You could see Fernando was not 100 percent fit, but sometimes 80 percent of Fernando can make a difference. "We had to be very careful with him, that is why we took him off near the end. Now, we have to take care of him." Both teams had been reduced to 10 men by the time David Ngog added a second goal in stoppage time as Liverpool closed the gap to six points behind leader Chelsea and four back from defending champion United. Two Premier League losses between Champions League defeats had jeopardized Liverpool's hopes of a trophy - even with seven months of the season remaining. "This is a very important result. We have to be very happy for the points today and keep going," defender Jamie Carragher said. "After that game, playing as a team and working hard, we can beat anyone." United, Liverpool's fiercest rival, had not been beaten since losing to Burnley in the second round of the season in August. "It was a bad performance by us. We didn't handle the atmosphere of the game," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "Liverpool were the better team, they created more chances. They deserved their victory. We let ourselves down with our penetration." In a high-tempo first half at Anfield, it was Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio, deployed on the left wing, who came closest to scoring. The Brazilian curled a free kick toward the top corner in the 15th minute that goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar did well to push away. The ball fell to Dirk Kuyt, whose shot was saved by Van der Sar's legs, and Torres made a poor connection with Liverpool's third attempt to beat the Dutch goalkeeper. Aurelio continued to provide Liverpool's main threat in front of goal, meeting Yossi Benayoun's cross with a header that Van der Sar dived low to keep out. Wayne Rooney was back to spearhead the United attack after recovering from a calf injury. But the visitors only troubled goalkeeper Pepe Reina once in the first half, when he blocked Rooney's low header in the 20th minute. While Liverpool fans outside Anfield protested against the club's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr., inside all the animosity was reserved for the northwest rivals - particularly former striker Michael Owen. As United chased an equalizer, Owen was brought off the bench in the 74th to replace Dimitar Berbatov, but made little impression. After Antonio Valencia hit Liverpool's crossbar late on, Carragher brought down Owen and only received a yellow card - much to Ferguson's annoyance. "He's their best defender without question. If he goes off at that stage, it makes it difficult for them," Ferguson said. A United defender was sent off, though, in the 90th minute, with Nemanja Vidic seeing red for the third straight match against Liverpool. In a fiery conclusion, Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano was dismissed in injury time for a second yellow card. Ngog put the result beyond doubt in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Lucas released Ngog, and the substitute slotted past Van der Sar to complete a convincing win. After the match, United captain Gary Neville had a minor confrontation with the police. Officers tried to stop the defender warming down in front of his team's fans, who were boisterous despite losing to Reds for the third straight match.