Unlucky Liverpool lose to Man United

Liverpool were beaten by Manchester United 2-1 in their EPL clash.

Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers. Picture: AFP

LONDON - A derby that began with an outpouring of goodwill ended in despair for Liverpool as Robin van Persie's penalty gave Manchester United a fortunate 2-1 win before Premier League at Anfield on Sunday.

A poignant day started with both sets of fans behaving impeccably during a tribute to the 96 supporters killed in the Hillsborough tragedy but Liverpool's gloomy season continued when Van Persie rammed home a late spot-kick after Glen Johnson had brought down Antonio Valencia.

Liverpool, reduced to 10-men in the first half when Jonjo Shelvey was red-carded, had led through Steven Gerrard's goal just after halftime but Rafael equalised for United who are second in the table with 12 points, one behind Chelsea.

The game sparked into life after 39 minutes when Shelvey lunged in on Jonny Evans.

But Liverpool rallied strongly and deservedly went ahead through Gerrard's precise volley.

A lacklustre United responded with Rafael curling a shot beyond Pepe Reina and Liverpool were left to curse their luck when Van Persie kept his cool to beat the despairing dive of Reina for his fifth league goal of the season.

WORST START

With just two points from five games under new manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool have suffered their worst start in the league for 100 years, although United manager Alex Ferguson admitted his side had been fortunate to win at Anfield for the first time since 2007.

"I thought we were poor to be honest with you," Ferguson told United's website. "I think the last four years we've allowed the crowd to get to us a little bit - they give fantastic support to their team and they really dominated the first half. Second half they got a great start.

"In the last four years here we haven't played well," he added. "Today at least we've got a result."

Shelvey raised the temperature with a high foot-first lunge in a 50-50 tackle with Evans. Referee Mark Halsey produced a straight red card and as Shelvey walked off he hurled abuse at Ferguson.

"He came and blamed me. Why look at himself in the mirror?," Ferguson said of Shelvey who later apologised. "Just blame someone else. I think the boy's young and when he looks at it again he'll realise the stupidity of it."

Apart from that, and a few mindless chants that did not befit the occasion, the match was played in a healthy spirit and Liverpool looked set for the perfect kickstart to their season when the tireless Gerrard fired them ahead.

However, it was to be another frustrating day for Rodgers whose side continues to lack a cutting edge.

After fullback Rafael's opportunist equaliser Liverpool looked the hungrier for victory but they were caught out by the speeding Valencia who was bundled over by a clumsy tackle from Johnson.

Van Persie was made to wait for four minutes to take the kick as Daniel Agger received treatment but slotted his kick past the despairing dive of Reina to end a run of three missed penalties in a row for United.

"I'm bitterly disappointed with the result - I thought the best team lost," Rodgers told a news conference.

"What you can't control is decisions by the referee. If Jonjo Shelvey gets sent off, Jonny Evans has to get sent off."