Lustrous Liverpool Maintain Healthy League Lead
Liverpool maintained their 13 point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United at Anfield.
Goals in each half from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane sufficed for the Reds in a performance of irrepressible control which saw them keep their fifth consecutive league clean sheet.
James Milner was a late addition to the team, with Naby Keita injuring his groin in the warm up, but the alternation done nothing to slow the home team down.
After only four minutes the hosts took the lead. For the second game in a row, Virgil van Dijk supplied the hockey assist with a sweeping pass that found Robertson. The Scotsman was helped by George Baldock slipping, leaving him with the simple task of sliding across a ball for Salah to tap in through Dean Henderson’s legs.
The Blades reacted well to conceding and had two shots of their own — one through boyhood Red John Lundstram, which drifted wide, and another from David McGoldrick which Alisson tipped over.
The normal balance was soon redressed and the hosts regained their dominance and began making chances. Mané found Georginio Wijnaldum who fired wide from just inside the box.
Jordan Henderson made sure his namesake was busy in the Sheffield United goal when his whipped, low pass was hit first time by Salah and a brilliant goal was stopped by an acrobatic save from Henderson, Dean.
With the absence of Keita, a lot of creative onus fell on Alexander Arnold’s shoulders and his exquisite pass was flicked into the path of Salah by Mané but the Egyptian was once again denied by Henderson.
The Reds dominance was such that the game lulled into an exhibition of lateral passing, but it took an intervention from van Dijk to stop Lys Mousset breaking through just before the half time whistle sounded with the score 1-0.
The second period was played in a similar manner, with its opening fifteen minutes marked by almost ceaseless Liverpool possession.
Sitting deep in their 352 shape, the closest the Blades came to being prized open in the second half was a right footed cross by Salah which went through everybody and hit the post.
Sufficiently emboldened by hanging in on the scoreboard, Sheffield United prepared a double change with strikers, Callum Robinson and Billy Sharp, introduced into proceedings.
But the timing couldn’t have been worse as Mané doubled the Reds lead just as Chris Wilder made his changes.
A long pass from Robertson found Salah and the Egyptian delicately found Mané who — after his initial attempt was saved — smashed into the roof of the net past Henderson. A goal richly deserved for the manner in which Liverpool controlled the half.
True to their usual style, the visitors kept plugging away and were nearly rewarded for their efforts with a goal when Jack O’Connell’s cross was met by McBurnie; Alisson nonchalantly denied the burly Scot, however.
Jurgen Klopp rang the changes towards the end of the game with Adam Lallana replacing Robertson — meaning Milner reverted to left back — Divock Origi coming on in place of Mane and Harvey Elliott making his Premier League debut in the place of Salah.
Origi was on the receiving end of the adulation of the Kop as he sprinted the whole length of the field to block an attempted shot from Baldock as the Reds held onto their clean sheet in yet another win.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Subs: Lallana for Robertson, Origi for Mane, Elliott for Salah.
Subs not used: Adrian, Williams, Phillips, Jones.