A late goal from substitute Adam Lallana salvaged a point for Liverpool in their 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford this evening.
The home team had lead through a Marcus Rashford goal mired in controversy but Lallana, who replaced Jordan Henderson, had the simple task of converting Andrew Robertson’s cross into an empty net in the 85th minute.
The beginning of the game was typical of a first match after an international break; slack passes were compounded by a lack of sharp movement as both team’s lacked any semblance of fluency or fluidity.
United, however, who started the game in 14th place looked more aggressive and were first to the second balls ahead of the European Champions.
Starting in a 352 formation, the hosts — while not being especially good — had the better of the opening exchanges with Rashford and Daniel James willing runners into the channels for the long balls played by their centre halves.
With the midfielders, with the exception of Georginio Wijnaldum, showing no inclination to make themselves available for passes, Liverpool relied on their full backs, Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold, for a creative thrust.
With Firmino lacking his usual assurance with his touch and Divock Origi doing likewise, the travelling Reds played into Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s teams hands.
And it was through this laxness in touch that United opening the scoring, albeit with a massive helping hand from referee Martin Atkinson and V.A.R.
A Robertson pass to Origi was mis-controlled by the Belgian, but home centre half Viktor Lindelof clearly came through the back of the forward with a foul.
Play was waved on as the Reds’ players froze in the anticipation of a foul being awarded and James broke into space before firing a sumptuous cross into the path of Rashford, whose movement was opportunistically clever, to fire past Alisson.
Correctly, the goal was referred to V.A.R. but, to the shock of many, it was allowed to stand.
It was a tough pill for the European Champions to swallow but, while Atkinson helped the cause of the Old Trafford side by constantly blowing his whistle for United fouls and ignoring the Reds’ claims, their performance didn’t merit much more.
Liverpool huffed and puffed, with Firmino missing a decent chance from a Sadio Mané cross, but their lack of incision in their passing meant no real chances were created.
Mané had the ball in the net near half time, but it was correctly ruled out by V.A.R after the Senegalese appeared to handle the ball in the build up.
The half time whistle blew with United holding their lead and Klopp visibly frustrated.
The second half started in a similar manner, with the visitors poor in terms of their passing and movement.
The introductions of Adam Lallana, for Henderson, Naby Keita, for Wijnaldum, and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, for Origi, proved to be a catalyst for the table toppers to get a grip of the game.
Prior to the trio’s introduction, the Reds had no options to receive passes between the lines but the substitutes offered a new dimension to the build up phases.
Aside from a Rashford break and wide shot, Liverpool were not threatened in the second half and held the lions share in both possession and territory. However, David De Gea was barely tested in the home teams goal as the visitors struggled to fashion big chances.
The six times European Champions stuck to the task and were rewarded for their perseverance in the 85th minute.
Robertson cross across the face of the United goal found their defence flat footed and Lallana, unmarked, tapped into the empty net.
The table toppers continued probing for a winner but United held firm to deny Liverpool equalling Manchester City’s 18 game long successive winning streak.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson; Mané, Firmino, Origi.
Substitutions: Oxlade Chamberlain for Origi, Lallana for Henderson, Keita for Wijnaldum.
Subs not used: Adrian, Lovren, Milner, Lovren, Gomez.