LIVERPOOL FC's second-half fightback was in vain they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in the Premier League at Old Trafford.
The Reds ultimately paid the price for a dismal opening 45 minutes when Robin van Persie fired the Premier League leaders ahead.
It was only after Patrice Evra's header was deflected past Pepe Reina by Nemanja Vidic to make it 2-0 just after the break that Brendan Rodgers' side came to life.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge pulled one back on his league debut and the Reds dominated the closing stages.
Sturridge went close to earning Liverpool a point but United held on to leave Rodgers cursing his team's slow start when they showed the hosts far too much respect.
Rodgers made just one change to the side which had beaten Sunderland in the Reds' previous league outing as Joe Allen replaced Jordan Henderson in midfield.
Despite scoring against Mansfield in the FA Cup, £12million signing Sturridge had to settle for a place on the bench. Fabio Borini was also named among the substitutes after recovering from the broken foot which had ruled him out since October.
United opted to start Danny Welbeck up alongside Van Persie, while centre-backs Vidic and Rio Ferdinand started together for the first time since September.
During a surprisingly low key opening spell, Liverpool struggled to keep possession on a poor playing surface and United's threat began to grow.
Martin Skrtel produced a fine block to deny Van Persie but neither keeper had been troubled prior to the hosts grabbing a 19th minute lead.
Tom Cleverley found Patrice Evra down the left and his cross was clinically dispatched past Reina by Van Persie, who had darted away from Daniel Agger.
The goal energised United and Liverpool were second best in all departments for the remainder of the first half.
Van Persie could have doubled his account but he fired over after being picked out by Ashley Young's pass.
Joe Allen endured a torrid time for the Reds and his misplaced pass put Danny Welbeck through on goal. However, Agger got back to spare his team-mate's blushes with a last-ditch block.
Welbeck blazed over when presented with another opportunity and then four minutes before the break United went close again.
The Reds failed to deal with Young's cross from right and after a poor defensive header from Allen, Tom Cleverley volleyed narrowly wide.
On the stroke of half-time there was another major let-off. Rafael got away from Glen Johnson in the box and picked out Van Persie.
The Dutchman's backheel was cleared off the line by Skrtel and Reina was clattered into by Shinji Kagawa. After lengthy treatment, the shot-stopper was fit to continue.
Rodgers took action at the interval as he took off Lucas and introduced Sturridge. United also made a change with Antonio Valencia replacing Young.
Nine minutes into the second half it was 2-0. Skrtel was relieved to only see a yellow card after bringing down Welbeck 30 yards out but from the resulting free-kick the Reds were punished.
Van Persie swung it to the far post when Evra got away from Glen Johnson. His header deflected off Vidic and past Reina.
Within three minutes the deficit had been halved. Steven Gerrard did brilliantly to dispossess Michael Carrick and played a one-two with Raheem Sterling.
The skipper's low drive was palmed away by De Gea but Sturridge followed up to put away the rebound.
Suddenly, there was hope and just past the hour Rodgers handed Borini his comeback in place of Sterling.
Reina clawed away Kagawa's curling effort but for the most part it was the Reds pressing for an equaliser and the home fans grew increasingly anxious.
Johnson and Sturridge both fired wide before Borini failed to hit the target with a volley from the edge of the box.
Henderson replaced Allen and five minutes from time they had a glorious chance to restore parity.
Suarez wreaked havoc in the penalty area and the ball dropped to Sturridge eight yards out but he lifted his shot over and United survived.