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    Solid United defense blunts Liverpool’s prolific attack and forces scoreless draw

    Oct 18, 2016
    Liverpool's Roberto Firmino tries to get past Manchester United's Eric Bailly at Anfield stadium. AP

    LIVERPOOL, England — Manchester United's defensive tactics blunted Liverpool's prolific attack as England's two most illustrious teams toughed out a scoreless draw in the Premier League on Monday.

    United manager Jose Mourinho's approach went to plan at Anfield, with Liverpool having 65 percent possession but failing to score in a home league game for the first time in exactly 10 months. United was the opponent then, too, but under Louis van Gaal.

    "I think we controlled the game tactically and emotionally," Mourinho said. "It's not easy to do both things here. The result is acceptable ... A very positive performance."

    When Liverpool's players did break free of United's fierce pressing, they found David de Gea in fine form, with the Spain goalkeeper producing excellent saves to deny Emre Can and, in particular, Philippe Coutinho in the second half.

    Liverpool started the league's eighth round of games with the joint-most goals of any team and had scored nine times in its two home matches so far. The hosts improved in the second half, especially after fit-again midfielder Adam Lallana came on as a substitute, but were never going to get the three-goal victory that would have put them top.

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    "It (the game) was what United wanted, and what we didn't want," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. "We tried everything, only with the wrong tools."

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    United stayed in seventh place, five points off the lead.

    What is often regarded as the biggest fixture in English soccer failed to live up to its billing and much of that was down to Mourinho.

    The 35 percent possession statistic, provided by the Premier League's official stats supplier Opta, was the lowest United has had in a Premier League game since Opta was first used by the league in 2003. Two minutes after leaving his post-match news conference, Mourinho returned to the room and told journalists that United had 42 percent possession, according to his club's stats department.

    "Two shots on target with 65 percent of possession, you have to be critical of Liverpool," Mourinho had said earlier. "It is their problem, not our problem."

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    Mourinho's United team has been accused of lacking intensity this season compared to its likely title rivals but his players discovered their energy here, harassing Liverpool into mistakes in an error-strewn first half that featured no clear-cut chances. Holding midfielder Ander Herrera was particularly effective.

    Referee Anthony Taylor played a central role in a niggly half, somehow holding off from brandishing a yellow card until the 43rd minute after a series of fouls from both teams. Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the field at halftime wagging his finger at Taylor, with the only two bookings falling to United players — Eric Bailly and Ashley Young (for dissent).

    Liverpool's two shots represented its joint-lowest total in the first half of a Premier League home game.

    Ibrahimovic had the first real chance of the game, directing his header across the face of goal instead of at goal in the 54th.

    After that, Liverpool was on top. De Gea went down low to his right to palm aside Can's left-foot shot and produced the moment of the match by clawing away Coutinho's curling shot from 30 meters in the 71st.

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    Wayne Rooney came on in the 77th minute, but had little effect.

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    Liverpool's Roberto Firmino tries to get past Manchester United's Eric Bailly at Anfield stadium. AP
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