Goals from Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota saw Liverpool fight back from 1-0 down to beat Sheffield United 2-1 at Anfield.
Far from their best, the Reds — who were on the receiving end of more farcical VAR decisions — eked out a win and moved level with Everton at the top of the table.
With Alisson returning from injury, the Champions lined up in a 4231 shape with the regular front three plus Jota.
The Reds showed their intent early almost had a goal in the first minute. Andrew Robertson’s arching pass into the left hand channel saw Sadio Mané round the onrushing Aaron Ramsdale and square for Mohamed Salah. The intervention of Chris Basham stopped the Egyptian tapping into an empty net and the Blades escaped.
The hosts came close again moments later when Trent Alexander Arnold’s quickly taken free kick caught Ramsdale unawares and the number one had to scramble to tip it over the bar.
After weathering the initial storm, Sheffield United scored after their first meaningful attack although with a huge helping hand from the VAR official. Fabinho was adjudged to have fouled Oliver McBurnie inside the box and a penalty was awarded. Upon review, though, it was clear the foul — even when the Brazilian appeared to win the ball — was outside the box, but Mike Dean nevertheless pointed to the spot. Sander Berge stepped up and comfortably sent Alisson the wrong way to open the scoring.
Rattled by the concession, Liverpool were laboured for most of the rest of the half and were fortunate to not be two behind when John Lundsram’s volley was well parried by Alisson.
The hosts — whose 4231 shape clearly took some adapting to — continued to probe and were rewarded for their attitude, which didn’t always match their output, when Jordan Henderson’s cross was directed at goal by Mané and Roberto Firmino tapped the rebound into an empty net.
The Blades the score at 1-1 into half time and the Reds, despite the injustice of their conceded penalty, can’t be too unhappy with the score after a disjointed half.
Liverpool started the second half with a gumption and almost took the lead when Salah’s arching left footed shot flew inches wide of the top corner.
The visitors made the game scrappy and almost retook the lead when Oliver Burke spun Fabinho tight to the touchline but shot was blocked by Gomez. This moment spurred a response and Salah had the ball in the net — beautifully controlling an Alexander Arnold pass and sweeping home in the same fluid movement — only for it, correctly for once, to chalked off for offside.
The Reds didn’t have to wait long for their second goal, however, as Diogo Jota, who improved as the half went on, nodded in Mané’s cross with aplomb. It was a fitting reward for a much improved second half.
An entertaining game, the affair was end to end and Salah almost made it three when his deft footwork saw him skip free in the box and dink a clipped shot off the post.
Liverpool continued to push for a third and the visitors for a leveler, but the Reds — who brought on James Milner to shore things up — held on for an important three points.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Gomez, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Jota, Firmino; Salah.
Replacements: Milner for Jota, Minamino for Firmino.