Liverpool Fc are out as Javier Hernandez scores the only goal at Old Trafford tonight
Brendan Rodgers’ side slumped out of the Capital One Cup with a hugely disappointing 1-0 defeat at bitter North West rivals Manchester United.
While a stark contrast to the abject surrender against Southampton at the weekend, Liverpool nevertheless again had only themselves to blame after dominating large periods of the game against a largely second-string opposition.
The only goal came seconds into the second half from Javier Hernandez, the United striker capitalising on the kind of slack marking at a corner Rodgers had sought to eradicate after the weekend.
Not even the sight of Suarez again leading the line could inspire Liverpool’s efforts of a recovery, who once again failed to back up a promising first half with a similar second. Indeed, they have still yet to score after the interval in seven games this season.
For United, it was a modicum of revenge having been beaten at Anfield in the Premier League just 24 days earlier.
For Rodgers, though, it was only further disappointment in his attempt to make serious inroads into a cup competition having failed to progress beyond the last 16 of any knockout tournament last season.
Liverpool had failed to score in only one of their previous 48 League Cup games, the defeat at Chelsea in December 2007. Now they must respond after back-to-back defeats for the first time since February to prevent the momentum of a promising start to the campaign dissipating completely.
Both sides went into the game last night on the back of chastening losses at the weekend.
But while injuries meant Rodgers was limited to just two changes, United counterpart Moyes rotated eight players out of the side humiliated 4-1 at neighbours City on Sunday.
The big alteration for Liverpool was the formation, Rodgers acknowledging the plethora of available centre-backs by playing three across the back and allowing Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson to work the flanks.
With the visitors growing accustomed to the new tactical line-up, United enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, Nani hitting a shot the deflected wide off Mamadou Sakho and Shinji Kagawa cutting in off the flank but firing weakly at Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
But once settled, Rodgers’ side dominated the first half. After 10 minutes, Suarez was close to receiving a return pass from Steven Gerrard having found the skipper inside the area.
Only an excellent defensive header from Alex Buttner prevented Daniel Sturridge reaching Enrique’s teasing cross, before a brilliant crossfield ball by Gerrard found the Spaniard, who then played inside for Suarez but the Uruguayan elected to try to find Victor Moses rather than having a shot.
Sturridge, played in by Suarez and chased by Jonny Evans, hurriedly shot wide before being involved in a claim for a penalty after the ball struck United centre-back Chris Smalling on the arm while executing a slide challenge on the Liverpool striker.
Aware of the scrutiny surrounding his first performance since serving a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, Suarez – always a danger despite clearly half-a-yard off the pace – was keen to steer clear of anything resembling controversy.
But his competitive streak couldn’t be compromised, as was shown by his willingness to launch into a 50-50 challenge with David de Gea, the United goalkeeper holding on to the ball.
Liverpool’s first-half performance was missing only one thing: a goal. And given the manner in which they have tailed off dramatically after half-time this season, it was a concern for the 7,000-strong travelling support.
But even they would have been flabbergasted by the speed and manner in which Rodgers’ men fell behind after the interval by conceding another goal from a set-piece.
Only 39 seconds of the second half had elapsed when, from a Wayne Rooney corner from the left, Hernandez wriggled his way clear of Enrique and directed an improvised volley beyond Mignolet.
It was scarcely deserved. But United continued to benefit from Liverpool’s profligacy, Henderson sidefooting wide a great opening inside the area having been teed up by Moses.
Suarez had another shot deflected clear, but Hernandez’s goal served to briefly galvanise United’s second-string side, prompted by the irrepressible Rooney.
From a lightning counter-attack, Nani selfishly shot horribly over before, in the 64th minute, Kagawa struck a shot that glanced the top of Mignolet’s crossbar.
Enrique spooned a shot wide to leave Gerrard screaming at his wayward colleague, Suarez turned away from Buttner but shot into the side-netting, and then on 71 minutes de Gea made an excellent save to repel a Moses diving header from Enrique’s cross.
Liverpool would come no closer. Moments later, Suarez picked himself up after being fouled by Phil Jones to curl a free-kick from 25 yards that took the slightest of clips off the defensive wall to take it against de Gea’s crossbar.
At the other end, a foul by Henderson gave Rooney the chance to try his luck from a similar position, Mignolet making a flying save to his right.
With 10 minutes remaining, Sturridge bizarrely chose to pass when put into space inside the area and the chance was lost.
In the closing moments, Henderson almost caught out de Gea from range while Toure misdirected his shot from a Suarez cutback.
But if despair was the overriding emotion for Liverpool supporters at the weekend, tonight it was frustration.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Rafael, Evans, Smalling, Buttner; Jones, Giggs; Nani (Welbeck 90), Rooney, Kagawa (Carrick 74); Hernandez (Januzaj 74). Subs: Amos, Anderson, Fabio, Zaha. BOOKINGS: Giggs and Jones (foul).
LIVERPOOL (3-4-1-2): Mignolet; Toure, Skrtel, Sakho; Henderson, Lucas (Kelly 67), Gerrard, Enrique; Moses (Sterling 82); Sturridge, Suarez. Subs: Jones, Alberto, Aspas, Ibe, Wisdom. BOOKINGS: Lucas, Toure and Henderson (all fouls).
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg.