Tevez sinks Liverpool
Liverpool's hopes of wresting the Premier League title away from Manchester United suffered a major setback on Sunday when they allowed the champions to get away from Anfield with a 1-0 win.
Carlos Tevez's goal just before half-time settled a contest that Liverpool dominated for most of the 90 minutes and could, with better finishing, have had wrapped up by the time the Argentinian claimed his ninth goal of the season.
The defeat means that Rafael Benitez's now trail United by nine points and, while they do have a game in hand, their margin for further error in the title race has been significantly reduced.
For United, who have not lost a league match at the home of their biggest rivals since 2001, the lacklustre nature of their limited offensive efforts will quickly be forgotten as they savour a win that can only bolster their belief that the Premiership trophy is on its way back to Old Trafford.
From the outset, Liverpool had looked the sharper of the two sides and the predictably robust opening exchanges were punctuated by a couple of decent half-chances for a side that was unchanged from the line-up which started the 4-0 demolition of Marseille in the Champions League last week.
Dirk Kuyt sent a half-volley spinning over the bar after Fernando Torres had hooked a clearance back into the box and the Spanish striker, having got the better of Owen Hargreaves on the left of the box, was a yard off target as he tried to find the far corner of the net.
United's early moments of menace were restricted to a goal-bound strike by Cristiano Ronaldo, which was charged down by John Arne Riise, and with Javier Mascherano increasingly stamping his authority on the midfield battle, Liverpool should have gone ahead just before the half-hour mark.
A weak punch by Edwin van der Sar fell to Harry Kewell ten yards out and although the Australian's shot was blocked on the line by Anderson, the rebound popped up invitingly for Torres, who contrived to nod the ball an inch the wrong side of the post.
United had another let-off three minutes later, when van der Sar charged off his line and clattered into the back of Rio Ferdinand, who inadvertently deflected the ball goalwards. Only a smart intervention by Evra prevented it from trundling into the net.
United's discomfort was reflected in the bookings collected by Evra and Wes Brown for checking the runs of, respectively, Yossi Benayoun and Harry Kewell.
The free-kick awarded Brown's tug on Kewell yielded another good chance for Torres, who volleyed wide after Gerrard's shot was deflected into his path 12 yards out.
But with the half-time whistle approaching, United suddenly found another gear and after Hargreaves had won a corner on the right, took the lead with the help of some uncharacteristically shoddy defending by their hosts.
With Liverpool's defence anticipating an inswinging delivery from Giggs, the Welshman instead drilled a low ball to Rooney, who was, inexplicably, completely unmarked on the edge of the area.
The England forward made the most of his freedom, unleashing a first-time shot was bound for the bottom corner to the right of Jose Reina before Tevez stuck out a boot to send the ball into the opposite corner of the net.
Liverpool's attempts to quickly get back on level terms after the restart were spearheaded by Gerrard, who thumped one drive into van der Sar's midriff before volleying Kewell's astute cross wide.
Kewell made way for Ryan Babel with 25 minutes left and the Dutch winger went close with a shot that flashed across van der Sar's goalmouth ten minutes later.
But with United largely content to sit back and soak up the pressure, it was a counter-attack from the visitors that produced the best of the second-hand chances.
With 13 minutes left and only Reina to beat, Rooney somehow managed to side-foot Ronaldo's curling low cross wide of the target.