Van Persie helps United edge past rivals

Robin van Persie, centre, celebrates with team-mates after breaking the deadlock in the first half

Robin van Persie, centre, celebrates with team-mates after breaking the deadlock in the first half

First published in National Sport News © by

Striker Robin van Persie came out on top in the battle of the Premier League's top scorers as Manchester United emerged from a tricky test unscathed in a 2-1 win against arch-rivals Liverpool.

The Holland international continued his remarkable scoring spree with a close-range effort in the first half which was doubled after the break by Nemanja Vidic.

Liverpool substitute Daniel Sturridge overshadowed team-mate Luis Suarez, who began the day one behind Van Persie on 15 top-flight goals for the season, by marking his league debut for his new club with a second goal in as many matches and had a chance to snatch a point late on, but United held on grimly, if somewhat unconvincingly.

In spite of the age-old rivalry, the first quarter of the game was something of a non-entity. It changed in the 19th minute when the ball was worked to the left for Patrice Evra to pick up in space. His low cross was the perfect invitation and Van Persie did what he does best, side-footing a shot past goalkeeper Jose Reina.

Van Persie should probably have had another having charged through a gaping hole between centre-backs Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger to collect Ashley Young's through-ball but he uncharacteristically ballooned over.

Only a brilliant goalline clearance from Skrtel from Van Persie's clever backheel from Rafael's cross prevented a second, with Reina taking a hefty whack from Shinji Kagawa in the aftermath which required lengthy treatment.

Within three minutes of the restart United were 2-0 up as Skrtel's foul on Danny Welbeck on the edge of the area, which earned him a yellow card, allowed Van Persie to swing in a free-kick from which Evra's header deflected in off Vidic.

At that stage it appeared the game was up for the visitors but their first shot on target brought some hope. A low strike from Steven Gerrard, on a rare foray to United penalty area, was only parried by David de Gea and Sturridge, on at half-time, used his poacher's instinct to follow up the rebound.

Sturridge had the chance to snatch an equaliser and the headlines with five minutes to go after Suarez's determination saw the ball break to his strike partner, but the £12million signing leant back and his effort sailed over and United escaped to consolidate their position as Premier League leaders.

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