MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Dropping points doesn’t seem so frustrating this time for Manchester United. Even against Liverpool.
While holding on to inflict Liverpool’s first loss of the season was beyond this patched-up United squad, a 1-1 draw still ended the Premier League leader’s perfect start on Sunday.
It’s a sign of United’s fall from grace that frustrating its fiercest rival represents progress in the midst of the team’s worst start for three decades.
Adam Lallana’s 85th minute tap-in for Liverpool, canceling out Marcus Rashford’s first-half opener, meant United has now lost eight points from winning positions this campaign.
But United stopped Liverpool recording a Premier League record-equaling 18th successive victory, extending back into last season.
Small comfort perhaps when Liverpool is six points clear of defending champion Manchester City at the top of the standings and United is remarkably only two points above the relegation zone.
“We deserved the three points,” Rashford said. “I don’t think they did enough to get a draw or a win. Of course it’s disappointing. It’s obviously a big opportunity missed, a big game, a big occasion for players and fans and we just fell short.
“We can play a lot better, especially attacking. There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Still, it was the first time Liverpool had failed to win in the league since a draw with Everton in March.
“The result is good,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said. “It’s not what we wanted before the game. But the way it developed I feel we have to be happy. We take the point because for a long time they were 1-0 up.
“We had good moments in the second half but I didn’t like the first half, because we gave Manchester United opportunities to do what they wanted.”
This was a day when Liverpool struggled to impose itself on a United side low in confidence.
But Klopp’s second-half changes paid off. Lallana, who replaced Jordan Henderson around the hour, ghosted in at the far post to meet Andy Robertson’s cross for his first goal since May 2017.
Liverpool fans were already in party mood before kickoff at the home of their greatest rival.
They weren’t just goading United about “going down.” They’d brought balloons in the shape of sixes. Where better to celebrate their sixth European Cup triumph in June than at the club with only three successes?
Especially on a day when some United fans turned on their leadership in a very public way. A banner calling for the departure of executive vice chairman Ed Woodward was flown over Old Trafford before kickoff with fans protesting against the owning Glazer family outside.
With Woodward vowing to stick by Solskjaer after 10 months in charge, the players showed the determination so often missing.
It helped that Liverpool didn’t resemble the power it now sees itself as — even against a defense as porous as United’s — with Mohamed Salah out with an ankle injury.
It took Liverpool 35 minutes to test United goalkeeper David De Gea, with the weakest of shots. Sadio Mane surged down the right flank and centered to Roberto Firmino, whose shot lacked power and placing and was easily gathered.
Within a minute, United was in front.
There was a foul by Victor Lindelof on Divock Origi in the buildup to Daniel James being released to launch a counterattack that ended with him centering to Rashford to score.
“It’s his best game maybe in his 10 months for me,” Solskjaer said about Rashford. “He runs off shoulders (of defenders), chases, defends well, got hold of the ball, had a nice little race with Virgil Van Dijk. You could see he is growing and getting stronger.”
Given the high bar being applied by the Premier League to overturn decisions on the field, allowing play to continue after the foul on Origi wasn’t deemed a serious error in need of correction.
“We allowed them to be aggressive and win challenges everywhere,” Klopp said. “We had to pass the lines and the opportunities were there, but we didn’t see them. They were better than us and defended well, but in the end they scored a goal that shows all the problems with VAR.
“Mr. (Martin) Atkinson let the game run on because that is the protocol of VAR, and VAR shows there was contact and it was a foul. But we couldn’t change that. They still had 60 or 70 yards to run to score the goal, but it’s not cool.”
Klopp was seething again before halftime when a VAR ruling went against Liverpool.
Mane had clearly used his left arm to control the ball and get round Lindelof before putting the ball through De Gea’s legs.
“Pretty much everything went against us today,” Klopp said. “But we still didn’t lose.”
But with Liverpool facing its first loss since a trip to Manchester City in January, VAR did clear Lallana’s leveler.
And Liverpool remains in a strong early position to dethrone City as champions, with Pep Guardiola’s side six points behind in second place.
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