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Steven Gerrard bolstered Liverpool's Barclays Premier League title hopes with a brace of penalties in a 3-0 victory over 10-man Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The Liverpool captain proved the man for the occasion, scoring twice from the spot and missing a third penalty to inspire his side's first win at Old Trafford in seven attempts in all competitions as Brendan Rodgers' men moved ahead of Manchester City into second and within four points of leaders Chelsea with a match in hand.
Nemanja Vidic was sent off for two yellow cards, receiving his second when he brought down Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool's third penalty, before Luis Suarez added further gloss to the scoreline with six minutes remaining. An under-par performance has put a further dent to United's European aspirations, as their Merseyside rivals remain firmly in the hunt for a first league title since the 1989-90 campaign.
The first of Gerrard's converted penalties ensured Liverpool went in ahead at the break, after Rafael Da Silva had used his hand to deny Suarez an opportunity on goal. While referee Mark Clattenburg chose not to show the defender a second yellow card, the hosts found themselves behind at half-time and Moyes was left to rue another costly foul early in the second half.
Phil Jones brought down Joe Allen and, after Clattenburg had pointed to the spot, Gerrard made no mistake. Gerrard then missed the chance for a hat-trick of penalties when Vidic felled Sturridge, the Liverpool captain crashing his effort against a post. Suarez did add a third for Liverpool six minutes from time as the visitors clinched a vital three points.
Sturridge was quick to showcase his movement if not his finishing prowess early on when he fired wide after just two minutes before Liverpool appeals for a penalty were waved away. Suarez went down after tackles from Jones and then Marouane Fellaini in quick succession, but Clattenburg had other ideas.
Other than Liverpool's early pressing, chances were few in the opening exchanges. Robin van Persie’s blocked effort was the best United could produce before Sturridge spurned the opportunity to test David de Gea when he failed to fashion a clean strike on goal after turning Vidic.
Allen forced the Spaniard into a save shortly after, capitalising on Vidic's error to get an effort away on goal, before Rafael handled inside the area to give Liverpool a penalty after Suarez cut in from the left wing.
Gerrard kept his cool to send De Gea the wrong way and hand the visitors a 34th-minute lead. United finished the half on top, Wayne Rooney first seeing a shot saved by Simon Mignolet before the follow-up was well blocked by Martin Skrtel.
Any hopes that the momentum would carry on in the second half were soon dashed when Jones bundled into Allen, with Gerrard registering 10th Barclays Premier League goal of the season with another penalty.
Gerrard was denied a hat-trick when he struck a post from the spot 12 minutes from time, but the victory was complete when Suarez latched on to Sturridge's scuffed shot to register his 25th league goal of the campaign.
Manchester United manager David Moyes: "It's hard to assess the game which was littered with penalty kicks and decisions, some were right and some were wrong. It was a tough day for us. At half-time, we were 1-0 down to a penalty kick, but I didn't think there was a lot in it. But to give away one 20 seconds into the second half made it a real uphill climb after that.
“They [Liverpool] played better than us. Some decisions went for them which were important at the right time with the penalty kicks they got. They earned them at times, and some occasions they didn't earn them at all.
"They [United’s players] tried to do it, but Liverpool played well. The first half I didn't think there was a great deal in it, but the penalty kick was the turning point in the first half and gave them something. To lose a goal right after half-time was tough."
"We'll fight to the end and wait and see how we get on. It will be tough, but we'll see what we can do."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “We're a developing side. We're probably a year ahead of where we've been but that's testament to the players and how quickly they're adapting to the methods.
The biggest difference is that we're believing all the time. You come here, you win 3-0 playing like we did today and it's another statement in terms of where the team is going. We could win the next nine games and still not win it but certainly our focus now will be to get ready.
"We've got a tough game against Cardiff next week away and it's five games on the spin now. Terrific results against tough opponents and we've just got to keep it going.”
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|25 Mar 2014||v Man City (H)|
|29 Mar 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|05 Apr 2014||v Newcastle (A)|
|20 Apr 2014||v Everton (A)|
|26 Apr 2014||v Norwich (H)|