Sunday 9th November 2003 (1.45pm)
Anfield, Liverpool

Vladimir Smicer pulls away

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After this game: Pos 8th Pl 12 Pts 17
MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 1-2 Man Utd

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Giggs 59
Giggs 70
Kewell 76

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Manchester United showed their Champions League pedigree to claim a third successive Premiership success over a Liverpool side now floundering in mid-table.

Two goals from Ryan Giggs did the job in a 12-minute second-half spell, and although Harry Kewell pulled one back, the champions had shown Liverpool what the winning business is all about.

United's fans taunted their bitter rivals with "14 years and still no title" and "Champions League, you're having a laugh."

But nobody at Anfield is laughing after losing at home now to all three of the top clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea and now their bitterest rivals.

Liverpool controlled if not punished in the first half, but when it mattered Roy Keane was a giant in midfield and United upped the tempo and grabbed the points.

There was no Michael Owen when he failed to make a good enough recovery from his ankle injury to even make the 16-man squad.

It meant Liverpool's only change from the energy-sapping slog through the Bucharest mud on Thursday in the UEFA Cup was the return of Vladimir Smicer on the left of midfield in place of John Arne Riise.

Manchester United, who completed a league double over their Anfield foes last season, left the more unpredictable skills of Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench and included John O'Shea.

The first half was a bitter disappointment. Two sides who respected each other too much rarely got close enough to the whites of each others' eyes to produce the rip-roaring clash this fixture usually produced.

Liverpool had plenty of early pressure but did not give Tim Howard a shot to save, just a hasty snap shot over from Smicer and a couple of efforts from Harry Kewell, one a dipping 20-yard volley.

United were happy to sit deep and let Liverpool attack them, El-Hadji Diouf getting to the line on both left and right flanks, but when the champions broke it was quick, effective and kept Sami Hyypia and Igor Biscan on their toes.

But for all their possession Liverpool were not moving it around quickly enough to drag United out of their shell, the visitors' midfield happily defending 10 yards inside their half and picking off inaccurate passes with ease.

The pace quickened from both sides after the break, Kewell forcing Howard into a leaping save at one end while Djimi Traore's leaping clearance stopped Forlan's cross reaching Van Nistelrooy.

Then Dudek brought back memories of last season's howlers when he cleared poorly on the left of his box. The ball found Ryan Giggs, some 40 yards out, and the Welshman's instant drive back was goalbound had not Dudek somehow managed to hurl himself back across goal to get a glove in the way.

The breakthrough, when it came, was somewhat fortunate. On 57 minutes Giggs swung over an angled cross which Van Nistelrooy attacked with a run across Dudek, but he did not get a touch and the ball sailed straight into the far corner of the net.

Liverpool brought on Florent Sinama-Pongolle five minutes later in place of Smicer, but United were pressing now from all angles.

Roy Keane and Phil Neville were winning the midfield and pressuring Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy into errors.

And on 69 minutes it looked all over. Forlan crossed from the left, Van Nistelrooy missed it and Giggs, unmarked on the right of the box, had time to control the ball and lash it past an unprotected Dudek.

Anthony Le Tallec immediately replaced Diouf, and with both French teenagers on the pitch, Liverpool found some fight, and on 75 minutes they pulled one back.

Pongolle's clever overhead kick from the bye-line was neatly side-footed home by Kewell.

Then Pongolle got through the middle and went down in the area but referee Graham Poll rightly waved away appeals for a penalty with no contact made.

Murphy created a gilt-edged chance for Heskey in injury time, but the striker fell and managed only a faint connection, the ball slipping wide and and United were home and dry.

Press Association

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Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Biscan, Hyypia, Traore, Diouf (Le Tallec 70), Murphy, Gerrard, Smicer (Sinama Pongolle 63), Heskey, Kewell.

Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Diao, Riise.

Booked: Diouf.

Man Utd Howard, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Fortune (Fletcher 83), Phil Neville, Keane, Giggs, van Nistelrooy, Forlan.

Subs Not Used: Carroll, Ronaldo, Butt, Djemba-Djemba.

Booked: van Nistelrooy, Gary Neville.

Att: 44,159

Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

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» Audio/Video Reaction

The BBC's Alan Green gives some post match comments
Liverpool's Gerard Houllier on our improvement!!?!

All audio and video requires RealPlayer and is from the BBC unless otherwise stated.

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» Other Media Reports

BBC Sport 'Giggs haunts Liverpool'

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Match Report filed: 10th November 2003