Liverpool kept their Champions League qualification hopes alive with a 4-2 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Chelsea losing at home to Arsenal last night boosted the Reds’ chances of a top-four finish, provided they kept their good form alive and they duly obliged with a superb performance.
A brace from Roberto Firmino and further goals from Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah sealed the win, a margin which could have been bigger if it wasn’t for more VAR controversy. A goal awarded to Bruno Fernandes — charitably so, as it was clearly an own goal from Nat Phillips — and a Marcus Rashford strike accounted for the home team’s goals.
The away team started with intensity and their pressing was sharp and accurate. After forcing Luke Shaw to turn over possession, Trent Alexander Arnold — whose passing was sublime throughout — slid a pass into the path of Firmino, and the Brazilian elected to cross instead of shoot first time, which seemed the better course of action.
Eric Bailly appeared to handle the ball on the ground, but play was waved on and United took the initiative after that early scare. A give and go between Aaron Wan Bissaka and Rashford saw the right-back work the ball to Fernandes on the edge of the box. With Georginio Wijnaldum passively standing off the Portuguese, the attacking midfielder tried a speculative outside of the foot shot that appeared to be heading wide. The ball, however, took a huge deflection off Phillips and sailed past Alisson in the away team’s goal.
To their credit, Liverpool responded well and their pressure eventually told when Phillips made amends for his error by assisting Jota for the equalizer. The towering Englishman showed quick feet to turn away from pressure in the box after a corner and his shot across the face of goal was turned home by the instinctually sharp Jota.
With confidence coursing through their veins, the Reds pushed for more goals and their efforts were rewarded when Alexander Arnold’s sumptuous freekick was powerfully headed home by Firmino to give the away team a 2-1 lead, a score they held going into the interval.
Liverpool began the second half in a similar fashion and they had their third goal not long after the resumption of play. Alexander Arnold — arguably the Reds’ best player alongside Thiago — drove a shot at Dean Henderson and when the keeper spilled the effort, Firmino was on hand to slot away the rebound.
Pouring forward, the away team should have put the game to bed when a flowing move saw Firmino feed Jota and, bearing down on goal, the Portuguese international hit the outside of the post with a shot when he should have scored.
United, whose lot was also helped by the introduction of Mason Greenwood, were scared into action and they pulled a goal back when Edinson Cavani’s incisive pass found Rashford and the England international — with the aid of a tiny deflection from Andy Robertson — slotted a goal past Alisson.
Any prospect of an unlikely comeback was ended in injury time, however, when Salah raced clear and slided a finish past Henderson after a Liverpool counter from a cleared United corner.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Phillips, Williams, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Jota, Firmino, Salah.
Replacements: Curtis Jones for Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane for Jota and Neco Williams for Salah.