Ten-man Liverpool were left searching for their first English Premier League win under new manager Brendan Rodgers as arch-rivals Manchester United came from behind to win 2-1 at an emotional Anfield on Sunday.
This was Liverpool’s first home match since an independent report cleared their fans of any responsibility for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster where 96 of the Merseysiders’ supporters were crushed to death during an FA Cup semi-final.
Liverpool played more than half the match a man down after Jonjo Shelvey was sent off in the 39th minute for a two-footed challenge on Jonny Evans.
But they still took a 46th minute lead when captain Steven Gerrard – whose 10-year-old cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, was the youngest fan to die at Hillsborough – volleyed home from near the penalty spot.
However, United only had to wait five minutes for an equaliser when Rafael curled in a superb shot from the right-hand side of the Liverpool area.
And with 15 minutes to go United – who had missed their last three penalties – were awarded a spot-kick when Liverpool defender Glen Johnson brought down Antonio Valencia.
There was a delay of several minutes as Liverpool defender Daniel Agger received treatment for an injury before Dutch striker Robin van Persie beat goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Victory saw United move to within a point of leaders Chelsea while defeat left Liverpool languishing in the bottom three.
Before kick-off, a potential flashpoint was avoided when Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and United defender Patrice Evra shook hands.
Suarez, banned for eight games for racially abusing Senegalese-born Frenchman Evra in the equivalent fixture last season, declined to shake the United man’s hand before the clubs’ last meeting in February.
The Hillsborough victims were remembered in a series of pre-match ceremonies.
United legend Bobby Charlton presented former Liverpool striker Ian Rush with a bouquet of red roses, and United captain Ryan Giggs released 96 red balloons, one for each of the dead.
Tributes to the Hillsborough dead climaxed with the words “The Truth”, “Justice” and “96” being spelled out by fans holding red and white cards.
Reigning champions Manchester City missed the chance to move up into third place after dropping two points at home in a 1-1 draw with potential title rivals Arsenal at Eastlands.
City’s Joleon Lescott, exploiting uncertainty in the Gunners’ zonal marking system, powered in a header five minutes before half-time as Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone flapped at David Silva’s corner.
But the Gunners, who had the best of the early exchanges, equalised eight minutes from time.
City keeper Joe Hart saved brilliantly to tip over Santi Cazorla’s 25-yard shot but the hosts failed to clear the ensuing corner and Laurent Koscielny lashed in the leveller as Arsenal climbed to fifth place.
City then went close to a second goal, with Vincent Kompany’s overhead kick blocked by Mannone and Sergio Aguero shooting just wide from the follow-up.
Tottenham Hotspur came from 1-0 down to beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at White Hart Lane as they denied their London rivals a first Premier League win of the season.
Demba Ba’s 19th minute goal saw Newcastle beat Norwich City 1-0 and so deny former manager Chris Hughton, now in charge of the Canaries, a happy return to St James’ Park.