Liverpool: A moment of madness from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard saw him sent off just 43 seconds after coming on in his final appearance against Manchester United, whose 2-1 victory at Anfield yesterday strengthened their grip on a top-four place.
Manchester United's Juan Mata celebrates scoring his second goal vs Liverpool yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Just over 11 months ago the midfielder, who leaves the Reds for Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer, was unfortunate with a slip which cost his side defeat at home to Chelsea and ultimately derailed their title dreams.
This time, however, there was no sympathy as less than a minute after being introduced as a half-time substitute his stamp on Ander Herrera saw referee Martin Atkinson produce a red card.
There was an almost audible gasp of disbelief from the majority of the 44,405 inside Anfield before the travelling support burst into a mixture of taunts and celebration.
For all his frustration at having to watch from the sidelines in a fixture in which he has scored seven times in his last 11 league meetings it was inexcusable from the most experienced player on the field.
Goals in either half from the outstanding Juan Mata, the second a brilliant bicycle kick, technically decided the outcome but Gerrard's indiscipline was a major contributory factor in Liverpool's first league defeat since losing 3-0 at Old Trafford in mid-December despite Daniel Sturridge offering a glimmer of hope with a smart finish 20 minutes from the end.
Lone striker Rooney
United playing a high midfield four behind lone striker Wayne Rooney meant Mata and Ashley Young were pushed into advanced positions and the former, in particular, used it to great effect against the relatively inexperienced Alberto Moreno. The Spanish World Cup winner cleverly moved from outside to inside and back again to generate space for himself and the 22-year-old left-back was left in a quandary whether to mark or hand over to centre-back Mamadou Sakho.
Herrera spotted this weakness and in the 14th minute threaded a pass between the two Liverpool players for his compatriot to run onto and clip a shot past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. It was a rare moment of quality as Sturridge thrashed an ambitious left-foot volley and Jordan Henderson switched play for Sturridge to provide the perfect lay-off.
Number of seconds Steven Gerrard was on the field before being red-carded