Football: Man United hold off Liverpool's bid for a Champions League spot with 2-1 win

LIVERPOOL - Juan Mata scored twice as Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 in a key English Premier League clash on Sunday.

The result allowed the fourth-placed Red Devils to prevent their bitter rivals from leapfrogging them and getting into the Champions League places. More significantly, United also established a five-point cushion over Brendan Rodgers' men.

Mata opened the scoring for the visitors in the 14th minute, finishing coolly from Ander Herrera's pass.

The turning point came when Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, playing against United for the final time in his storied career, was sent off for stamping on Herrera just 45 seconds after he came off the bench.

In the 59th minute, Mata's brilliant scissor-kick beat Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to make it 2-0.

Ten minutes later, Daniel Sturridge scored a consolation for the hosts.

In the 93rd minute, United were awarded a penalty when Emre Can downed Daley Blind. But Mignolet brilliantly Wayne Rooney's effort to prevent a third United goal.