Wed. Oct 28th, 2020

Liverpool 2-0 Sheffield United: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Reds Go Year Unbeaten in the League

5 min read

Liverpool took their spectacular 2019 form into the New Year, with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Sheffield United on Thursday evening leaving them unbeaten

It took Liverpool less than four minutes to grab their first goal of 2020, as George Baldock’s slip allowed Andy Robertson to collect Virgil van Dijk’s long pass and cross for Mohamed Salah to tap home. 

Were it not for an exceptional save from Dean Henderson, Salah would have doubled both his and Liverpool’s lead. However, despite the host’s dominance, the Blades dug in and headed for the interval just one goal down.

Salah was in the thick of the action on the hour mark, as a hopeful chip into the box (which certainly wasn’t a shot) was left by everybody – only to bounce off the inside of the post. A grateful Henderson collected off his line to spare the Blades’ blushes.

The lead was doubled at breakneck speed just minutes later, as Alisson rolling out from his box resulted in Sadio Mane slotting home in what seemed like seconds. The ball reached the Senegalese on the wing and his initial shot was saved after an exchange with Salah – however he was first to the ball to poke home for 2-0.

Sadio Mane

Oli McBurnie wasted a late chance to give United a lifeline, but his scuffed shot was comfortably saved by Alisson on the line. New year, same Liverpool and a 13-point lead at the Premier League summit.


Liverpool

Key Talking Point

While other big sides have been undone and struggled against Sheffield United, Jurgen Klopp demonstrated his tactical flexibility to ensure his side wouldn’t be the victims of another Blades’ upset. 

On paper it looked like Liverpool would deploy a 4-3-3 formation on Thursday evening, but it appeared that Jordan Henderson and James Milner – who was called in for Naby Keita at the last minute – had been given instructions to tweak the Reds’ shape during the game.

Both Henderson and Milner dropping in as a third centre half was a common sight, which allowed ​Liverpool‘s full-backs to play higher up the pitch – nullifying the Blades’ wing-backs without being overrun in midfield.

At the other end of the pitch, Milner continually popped up on the right flank – which allowed Salah to drift inside and adopt a central role. It was a nightmare for the typically organised United back three, as we will discuss very shortly…


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Alisson (7); Alexander-Arnold (7), Gomez (7), Van Dijk (8), Robertson (7); Milner (8), Henderson (8), Wijnaldum (7); Salah (8), Firmino (6), Mané (7)

Substitutes: Origi (6), Lallana (5)


STAR PLAYER

Mohamed Salah

Salah’s movement picked the lock that so many teams have struggled with this season – how do you break the resolute back three of Sheffield United.

The Egyptian was given the freedom to drift inside from the right flank and it paid off, it created his two early chances – the first of which he converted and the second he was unlucky to see saved. But it also provided space for those around him, typified by Mane’s goal as Salah drew the Blades’ defence towards him like a magnet to give his teammate room to finish.

Denied twice by excellent Henderson saves, ​Salah​ will be disappointed to have scored just once.


Sheffield United

Key Talking Point

You can guarantee that Chris Wilder’s game plan wouldn’t have included conceding in the first five minutes! But once keeping it tight went out the window, the Blades recovered remarkably well.

While many teams might have buckled under the weight of Liverpool’s juggernaut and invincibility at Anfield, ​United ensured that they regained their shape and slotted into a back five whenever they lost possession. That platform allowed the midfield trio and attacking pair to hassle and harry their opponents high up the pitch when needed.

However, despite creating a few good chances, the Blades’ were suffering from a lack of quality in the final third. At times they seemed pressured and in awe of Liverpool’s quality, while tired legs looked like they might be the cause for misplaced passes.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Henderson (8*); Basham (7), Egan (7), O’Connell (6); Baldock (5), Lundstram (6), Norwood (6), Fleck (5), Stevens (6); McGoldrick (6), Mousset (5)

Substitutes: Sharp (6), McBurnie (6), Besic (5)


STAR PLAYER

The last time these two teams met, Dean Henderson’s mistake was the difference as Liverpool laboured to a 1-0 victory at Bramall Lane. So it speaks volumes about the Blades’ goalkeeper that he arrived at Anfield and delivered a string of exceptional saves against the league leaders.

The pick of the bunch came in the 11th minute, when Salah’s instinctive shot forced even sharper reactions for Henderson to somehow claw it behind. The duo came face to face later in the half, the goalkeeper unflappable with the Egyptian running towards him at full speed.

He was unlucky with the second goal as neither he or his defenders could beat Mané to the rebound, but that wasn’t enough to stop the calls for England and Manchester United starting berths later in the year. 


Looking Ahead

The FA Cup third round brings no respite for Jurgen Klopp, as Everton visit Anfield this Sunday. Once the Merseyside derby is wrapped up, a trio of tricky Premier League fixtures awaits – the Reds face Tottenham and Wolves away either side of a home match against Manchester United.

The Blades, meanwhile, need to avoid a giant killing in Sunday’s FA Cup visit of Fylde, before welcoming West Ham to Bramall Lane in the latest edition of Friday night Premier League action.


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