Legends of the North: United 1 Liverpool 3
Manchester United and Liverpool Legends helped raise over £1.3 million for the Manchester United Foundation, as 48,777 supporters were in attendance to see the Merseysiders win 3-1 at Old Trafford in the first Legends of the North match.
Despite being level at the break, the clash roared into life in the second period.
Dimitar Berbatov won and scored a penalty to equalise after Luis Garcia's goal, before Mark Gonzalez’s sublime free-kick and late strike earned the win for Kenny Dalglish’s side, ahead of September's return leg.
It was another fantastic occasion at the Theatre of Dreams, with the crowd welcoming back 17 great figures from United's past, along with their Liverpool counterparts.
The story of the dayGallery
These images tell the tale of the tape from Saturday's Legends of the North match.
The first half began with huge jeers from United supporters, who enjoyed Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher’s misplaced pass just moments after kick-off.
The first chance, however, fell to Liverpool's Legends. Stewart Downing broke down the left and whipped in a dangerous cross, but van der Gouw was able to smother before Andriy Voronin could get a telling touch.
Patrice Evra showed glimpses of the explosive pace he was known for during his playing days, and created United’s first opportunity of the match. The Frenchman powered down the left before laying the ball into Berbatov, whose effort from outside the box stung the palms of Jerzy Dudek.
The Reds were forced into an early change after Louis Saha picked up a knock, with Danny Webber replacing the two-time Premier League winner.
Both sides continued to probe for an opener, and United almost had it midway through the first half. Nicky Butt dragged a left-footed effort wide of the post after good work by Jesper Blomqvist and Berbatov, before Webber saw an effort blocked by Carragher.
Moments later, Karel Poborsky broke down the right, twisting and turning before firing his shot narrowly wide of the post.
Despite the Reds’ pressure, Antonio Valencia was forced to produce a brilliant goal-line clearance to keep the scores level, clearing heroically after Maxi Rodriguez lofted a goal bound effort over van der Gouw.
As half-time approached, ex-teammates Berbatov and Valencia linked up to create the best chance of the first half. The duo exchanged a superb one-two to carve the Liverpool defence apart, but the Ecuadorian midfielder couldn’t find the target.
After making wholesale changes at half-time, Liverpool took the lead after just two minutes of the second half, with Garcia latching on to Yossi Benayoun’s through ball before rounding van der Gouw and passing into an empty net.
But that lead didn’t last long, as Berbatov drew a foul from Momo Sissoko inside the box, before calmly slotting home the resulting penalty.
Liverpool continued to threaten in the second period, and it took two brilliant saves from substitute goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington to deny Gonzalez and then Dirk Kuyt to keep the scores level.
But just after the hour mark, the visitors had the lead again. Gonzalez, who had been denied by Pilkington just minutes earlier, gave the United stopper no chance with his free-kick, which evaded the wall and flew in off the right-hand post.
As the match entered the final 20 minutes, United pressed for an equaliser, with Webber stinging the palms of Sander Westerveld before the Dutchman produced a remarkable save to stop John O’Shea’s cross sneaking in at the far post.
With the match approaching its final knockings, there was a frantic few minutes of action which somehow ended with neither side finding the back of the net.
First, Garcia hit the ball wide after being played in behind one-on-one, before Pilkington cleared off the line after a backwards header from Gary Neville allowed Gonzalez to nick it round the goalkeeper.
Then moments later, it was Liverpool’s turn to live dangerously, with Webber heading Valencia’s cross into the ground just before having a one-on-one of his own denied by the sprawling Westerveld.
With United pushing players up in injury-time, Liverpool hit Bryan Robson’s side with a sucker punch. Garcia robbed Silvestre of possession on the halfway line, and the Spaniard drove towards the box before laying the ball into the path of Gonzalez, who earned himself a brace with a low, driven finish.
The sides will meet again in the second leg of the Legends of the North at Anfield in September and our players will certainly be going into that one looking to overturn today’s defeat and raise even more money for great causes!
United: Van der Gouw, Neville (c), Johnsen, Stam, Evra, Poborsky, Valencia, Butt, Blomqvist, Saha, Berbatov.
Subs used: Fortune, Webber, Pilkington, O’Shea, Silvestre, Brown.
Goals: Berbatov 50.
Liverpool: Dudek, Kvarme, Xavier, Aurelio, Carragher (c), Pennant, Le Tallec, Diao, Rodriguez, Downing, Voronin.
Subs used: Garcia, Benayoun, Kuyt, Sinama-Pongolle, Wright, Sissoko, Enrique, Vignal, Gonzalez.
Goals: Garcia 47, Gonzalez 62, 90+2.