It may not have lived up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s billing as the greatest match-up in English football but Liverpool’s draw at home to Manchester United was typically not without incident.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was denied a dream return to the starting line-up when his free-kick midway through the second half was cancelled out by substitute Hernandez’s late header.
The England international put seven months of rehabilitation behind him after a groin operation in March by capping an assured performance in midfield with the goal which looked like extending his side’s home dominance over their arch-rivals.
However, Hernandez prevented a fourth successive United defeat at Anfield – which has not happened since 1979 – to maintain his team’s unbeaten record this season.
It also denied Liverpool a happier anniversary than the one they were enjoying after marking the 12 months to the day since they were bought by Americans Fenway Sports Group.
Wayne Rooney’s demotion to the bench summed up his miserable week after his England sending-off and subsequent three-match ban for Euro 2012, which was the talking point before kick-off.
Once the match kicked off there were plenty of others – mainly in the second half – with Rio Ferdinand’s disputed foul on Charlie Adam which could have resulted in the defender seeing red and United goalkeeper David de Gea’s impressive performance just two.
The first half was essentially about trying to establish a grip on the game and although Liverpool had the better of that scrap early on United had done enough to restore the balance by the interval.
Both sides had chances to open the scoring with Phil Jones, playing in midfield, heading Patrice Evra’s deep left-wing cross into the side-netting when he should have done better.
A similar accusation could have been levelled at Luis Suarez, who looked like he would give Rio Ferdinand a torrid time after their opening exchanges but found the United defender a worthy opponent as the half drew on.
The Uruguay international found himself with only David de Gea to beat when Charlie Adam’s 34th-minute shot kindly rebounded off Jonny Evans but the striker shot straight at the goalkeeper who parried the ball to safety.
Gerrard found the midfield a little too crowded for his liking and rarely got the space or opportunity to have much impact.
Early in the second half Ashley Young’s 25-yard free-kick briefly had Jose Reina scrambling to claim at the second attempt but the tide was gradually turning in favour of the hosts.
They felt they should have had a penalty when Dirk Kuyt’s header struck the arm of Evans. And when Ferdinand, who had been booked for an earlier foul on Suarez, tripped a charging Adam with the slightest of touches as he threatened to break into the penalty area, the Liverpool fans were convinced he should have been sent off.
Gerrard, however, exacted a greater punishment when he curled home a low shot from the resulting 25-yard free-kick after Ryan Giggs left a space in the wall.
Rooney and Nani were immediately sent on, with the latter blazing a shot well over, before fellow substitute Hernandez was introduced for the final 15 minutes.
And he made his mark within six minutes of coming on as Danny Welbeck flicked on a left-wing cross and the youngster headed home unmarked at the far post.
But United were indebted to De Gea, who has come in for a fair amount of criticism in his maiden season, as the Spaniard threw himself to his left to deny Dirk Kuyt.
He was in action again in injury time when he acrobatically tipped over a shot from Henderson, with the Liverpool midfielder also having a chance to win it even later only his header from Stewart Downing’s cross dropping onto the roof of the net.