Fighting Spirit Away From Home
This was a rather disappointing matchup, all in all, certainly with regards to entertainment. The matchups between two clubs on opposite ends of the Premier League spectrum can often create a one-sided affair, one that possesses elements that could still send the result in either direction. Sheffield United had only just parted ways with their former manager, Paul Heckingbottom, given the rather disastrous start to their campaign. Former head coach, Chris Wilder, was the man waiting in the wings, who gleefully resumed his role as first team manager, having himself been dismissed in 2021. Wilder and Jürgen Klopp had clashed a couple of years back, as the two outspoken men had differing ideas on how many substitutes should be used. At that point, a maximum of three in-game changes was still in effect. The German’s idea of increasing this to five was inevitably embraced by the English game, which enabled Wilder himself to use beyond three subs, despite once being dead set against the idea.
The Starting Eleven
- Caoimhin Kelleher
- Trent Alexander Arnold
- Virgil van Dijk (c)
- Ibrahima Konaté
🔴 Key Stats from Konate’s Dominant Performance
14/14 Aerial Duels Won
8 Progressive Passes
95/116 Passes Completed
6/10 Ground Duels Won
17 Passes into Final Thirdhttps://t.co/1CGUWH64XT
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 7, 2023
- Joe Gomez
- Alexis Mac Allister
- Dominik Szoboszlai
- Wataru Endō
- Mohamed Salah
- Luis Díaz
- Cody Gakpo
- Curtis Jones – Alexis Mac Allister (58 mins)
- Darwin Núñez – Luis Díaz (67 mins)
- Harvey Elliott – Mohamed Salah (67 mins)
- Ryan Gravenberch – Cody Gakpo (86 mins)
Key Match Moments
- Sheffield United 0 – 1 Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk (Trent Alexander Arnold) 37 mins
- Sheffield United 0 – 2 Liverpool: Dominik Szoboszlai (Darwin Núñez) 90+4 mins
Important Match Stats
- Possession: Sheffield United 24 – 76 Liverpool
- Total Shots: Sheffield United 6 – 15 Liverpool
- Total Crosses: Sheffield United 8 – 26 Liverpool
- Counter Attacks: Sheffield United 5 – 3 Liverpool
First Half Breakdown
The opening period of this game saw Liverpool gain territorial advantage almost immediately. Chris Wilder’s precedent had been to allow the visitors the ball (within non-threatening areas), as part of a tactic to counter at pace at any opportunity. The laid-back nature of superior teams can sometimes lead to overconfidence in their play, something which saw Joe Gomez fumble and gift the Premier League newcomers a brilliant opportunity early on. Luckily for the away side, Caoimhin Kelleher remembered that he was allowed to save incoming shots, despite failing to do so against Fulham last weekend.
Throughout this cagey affair, Virgil stood tall alongside his young apprentice, Ibou, as the twin towers dominated each duel that came their way. One truly exceptional piece of marshalling and defensive play was beautifully orchestrated by the Liverpool captain, as he challenged Cameron Archer to make a decision, before taking the chance away from him. The 32-year-old defender was then able to make an offensive impression, as finally a corner was capitalized upon. A flighted ball from Trent Alexander Arnold found its way to the Reds’ skipper, who half-volleyed the ball into the net. With that, the half soon ended and the better team (just about) was one nil ahead.
Second Half Analysis
On resumption of the second half, much of the mundane and repetitive play was on show, as the visitors continued to dominate possession, without making much of a dent on the home team’s rearguard. Alexis Mac Allister had endured a cut to his knee in the first half (due to a stamp), which meant the next heavy challenge he received saw him leave the field of play. With some renewed energy and substitutions, a level of control was maintained, due in large part to the excellent leadership of Virgil van Dijk. Mohamed Salah had a great effort saved, yet for the most part, Liverpool’s attack was blunt and rarely a threat to the Sheffield side.
Eventually, the second-half substitute, Darwin Núñez, was able to craft a late chance to end the contest, as his brilliant challenge was followed by a precise cross to an unmarked Dominik Szoboszlai. From here, a great touch and emphatic finish saw the scoreline shift to 0-2, as the final whistle soon followed.
What Are My Final Thoughts…?
This is a game that would have ended in a painful defeat last season. The dogged determination and patience of Sheffield United, was a calculated ploy by Chris Wilder, to catch out a team that was limited to very few clear-cut chances. In this hectic period leading into Christmas, all that matters is garnering three points and keeping close touch with the leaders. The result saw Liverpool move back within two points of table-topping Arsenal, on a night where Aston Villa outplayed and defeated the title favourites, Manchester City.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 7, 2023
Games that are ground out and won are signs of a winning mentality and strong character, therefore, apart from the injury to Mac Allister, this contest was ideal in many ways. Wataru Endō was very solid and tenacious, whereas the central defenders were exceptional. A trip to Crystal Palace awaits on Saturday lunchtime, with a chance to move to the top of the league.