London: Daniel Sturridge marked his 24th birthday with the winning goal as Liverpool beat Manchester United 1-0 on Sunday and Anfield celebrated a significant anniversary in its auspicious history.
Bill Shankly, the legendary manager who put Liverpool on the world football map, was born 100 years ago on Monday, which made the timing of this success, in such a heated local rivalry, all the more poignant.
The win also marked the first time in 19 years that Liverpool have opened a Premier League campaign with three consecutive victories and they are already five points clear of their old rivals United.
Liverpool's players took just three minutes to respond to the occasion, after Sturridge capitalised on a mistake by Ashley Young and won a corner via the challenge of Rio Ferdinand.
Steven Gerrard's right-wing corner found Daniel Agger, who had lost Ferdinand too easily, and his goalward header was turned in, superbly, by Sturridge with a flicked header on the six-yard line.
It was a goal-poacher's finish, Sturridge's third in as many league games, and one that will have impressed watching England manager Roy Hodgson as he prepares to name his sides for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.
It was also a goal that enlivened one of the more combustible fixtures on the Premier League calendar and served to underline the challenges facing United's new manager David Moyes.
Robin van Persie almost produced an instant response for the champions, who were missing Wayne Rooney due to a head injury, but his overhead kick, from Patrice Evra's set-piece header, cleared the crossbar.
Indeed, United might have faced a greater second-half hill to climb as they struggled to cope with an energetic, pressing approach from Liverpool that did not slacken as the half proceeded.
Philippe Coutinho and Gerrard each had shots from outside the area that did not offer David de Gea too stern a test in the United goal, but which showed Liverpool's growing confidence.
And United's mounting frustration was summed up in the closing stages of the opening period when three of their players -- Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, and Van Persie -- were booked for petulant fouls.
Van Persie and Martin Skrtel were also involved in an injury-time altercation after they competed for a cross, with Gerrard becoming involved before referee Andre Marriner intervened.
Iago Aspas headed over early in the second half but, having been forced to bring on Antonio Valencia for the injured Phil Jones late in the first half and switch from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, United finally started to show a sense of urgency.
Van Persie's powerful shot was deflected behind by Skrtel and Young was denied by Glen Johnson's block before Danny Welbeck and the United bench appealed for a penalty after slight contact from Aspas in the area.
Ryan Giggs glanced a corner from substitute Nani directly into the arms of Simon Mignolet, shortly before being replaced by Javier Hernandez, but an appalling back-pass from Nemanja Vidic forced De Gea to sprint from his line to beat Johnson to the ball.
Nani forced Mignolet into his first serious save of note, after 76 minutes, with a powerful strike and Hernandez also tested the Liverpool goalkeeper's alertness with a snapshot from just outside the area.
Hernandez's late through ball slid in Van Persie, who missed the target from a promising position, and deep in added time, Raheem Sterling almost capped the perfect afternoon for the home side with a terrific blast that De Gea tipped over.
In the day's other lunchtime game, Swansea City recorded their first victory of the season with a 2-0 success at West Bromwich Albion.
The home side recalled Nicolas Anelka after he was granted compassionate leave due to the death of a close friend, but they lost to a 22nd-minute Ben Davies volley and a late Pablo Hernandez strike.
Story first published on: Sunday, 01 September 2013 20:18 IST