EPL: Anthony Martial scores on debut as United beat Liverpool
Anthony Martial appeared unburdened by the weight of expectation, scoring a slick goal on debut for Manchester United to help the EPL giants beat Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.football Updated: Sep 13, 2015 21:59 IST
Anthony Martial, football's most expensive teenager, appeared unburdened by the weight of expectation, scoring a slick goal on debut for Manchester United to help the EPL giants beat Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.
With his only shot, the 19-year-old striker completed a 3-1 victory 20 minutes after coming off the bench in an engrossing second half, and thus announced his arrival in the premier league.
Slaloming through the brittle Liverpool defense in the 86th minute before side-footing home, Martial demonstrated why he is already being compared with France great Thierry Henry. If this is a taste of his repertoire of goals, United's decision to pay Monaco up to 80 million euros ($90 million) for the Frenchman will look justified rather than the deadline-day inflated panic buy it appeared this month.
"If he talks like that on the pitch that's all we need," United winger Ashley Young said, disclosing Martial's difficulties speaking English. "It was vitally important."
The goal ensured United did not miss captain Wayne Rooney, who was ruled out of this meeting of English football's most successful teams with a hamstring injury.
Martial's contribution masked what had been a listless first half between the usually ferocious opponents, who couldn't produce a single shot on target between them.
That changed four minutes into the second half. What the first half lacked in ingenuity, United made up with a deft set-piece. Liverpool anticipated Juan Mata whipping a free kick toward goal, but the midfielder rolled the ball to the unmarked Blind, who dispatched the ball into the net with ease from the edge of the area.
Until that point, United goalkeeper David de Gea had not had to make a save a day after unexpectedly signing a new four-year contract following his aborted move to Real Madrid. His first meaningful contribution was nearly a costly one: Kicking the ball directly to a Liverpool player before being rescued by his defense. But he then demonstrated why he was so coveted by Madrid by nimbly tipping over a bouncing close-range shot from Danny Ings.
United's scorer became the team's saviour when Blind made goal-line clearances in quick succession: First from Martin Skrtel's header, and then from Roberto Firmino's follow-up at the back post.
The intensity usually witnessed in this rivalry had returned, even though it was missing a single player born in either city in the starting lineups.
United's second goal came after Spaniard Ander Herrera was brought down by Joe Gomez in the penalty area. Herrera slammed the ball straight down the middle of the net with 20 minutes to go.
It was far from game over for United, and a nervy conclusion looked in store when Christian Benteke produced a moment of supreme athleticism in the 84th to send the ball into the net with an overhead kick.
But within two minutes, Liverpool allowed Martial to cut in from the left flank and produce that moment of debut magic. It was Martial's only contribution of significance. But what a contribution. The pressure is off the teenager - for now.