17 Oct Stalemate at Anfield
Liverpool and Manchester United finished goalless as a tense derby failed to live up to the pre-match hype.
The 197th instalment of this fierce rivalry had been dubbed ‘Red Monday’, with Jose Mourinho’s first visit to Anfield as United manager and the hosts’ fine form adding extra intrigue to an already mouth-watering clash.
However, the match failed to live up the anticipation as the sides fought out a largely turgid encounter, with a pair of second-half David de Gea saves frustrating Jurgen Klopp’s men as the match ended 0-0.
It was the first domestic draw between the sides in five years and their first scoreless meeting since September 2005.
The outcome looked a distinct possibility from the outset as fouls broke up the play, with few moments of note in a dull first half under the Anfield floodlights.
Liverpool improved after the break and would have snatched victory was it not for De Gea, who followed a fine save to thwart Emre Can by denying Philippe Coutinho from 30 yards.
They were the best chances of a disappointing evening on the pitch, but thankfully off it unsavoury chants did not scar proceedings like they had in recent meetings, with a swiftly-removed Munich-related banner on the road into the city not proving the precursor to trouble.
Instead, both sets of fans created an atmosphere as loud as you would expect when the teams emerged at the new-look Anfield, hosting its first night match since the redevelopment that not only modernised the stadium but raised the capacity to 54,000.
Expectations have also grown around the club thanks to five straight wins in all competitions, yet in the first half Klopp’s men looked a pale imitation of their exciting, high-pressing self.
United were pressing intelligently but struggling to regularly threaten Loris Karius’ goal, with neat interplay between Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic early on failing to bring with it clear-cut chances.
The Liverpool goalkeeper, preferred over Simon Mignolet, had to be alert to thwart Marcus Rashford’s fine, low cross, which came shortly after Can’s struck over the hosts’ first shot of the evening.
Roberto Firmino’s header was comfortably saved by De Gea at his near post when the Reds got away their first effort on target soon after, but the visitors were largely cancelling out the home side as frustrations grew.
Ander Herrera and Coutinho exchanged pleasantries after a duel, leading referee Anthony Taylor to call over captains Jordan Henderson and Chris Smalling in an attempt to calm simmering tension.
It took 44 minutes for the referee, under so much scrutiny in the build-up, to dish out his first booking, with Eric Bailly’s yellow card for a clattering challenge followed by one for Ashley Young for dissent.
Loud cheers at those decisions were followed by a collective sigh of relief four minutes after half-time.
Klopp emerged early from the break and would have been left rubbing his eyes in disbelief when Karius inexplicably passed straight to Pogba. Fortunately for the goalkeeper Ibrahimovic was offside when the ball was played through, which also saved the veteran striker’s blushes after he directed wide.
The striker had another chance soon after easily escaping Nathaniel Clyne to meet a Pogba cross, only to plant his header well wide.
It was a let-off Liverpool almost capitalised on in the 59th minute. Can, making his first league start of the season, slipped behind the backline, wriggled free and got away a shot that De Gea did well to stop.
Adam Lallana, so impressive this term, was brought on in a bid to add extra attacking menace, with Coutinho almost finding just that with an exceptional 30-yard strike that De Gea superbly turned wide.
The Spain goalkeeper was there again to block Firmino, unaware the flag had been raised for offside, as Liverpool pushed for a winner.
Wayne Rooney came on as United looked to reassert their authority, but Marouane Fellaini’s header wide was the best they could muster.
Nathaniel Clyne had an effort blocked and a superb last-ditch tackle from Antonio Valencia took the ball away from Firmino at the crucial moment.