It took until injury time for Liverpool to secure a valuable three points at Bramall Lane, as Dominik Szoboszlai added to Virgil van Dijk’s first-half strike. In truth though, Sheffield United’s re-appointed Chris Wilder saw his side give a battling performance that rarely threatened Liverpool’s superiority.
Despite a raucous reception for Wilder’s homecoming, Liverpool easily quelled the crowd in the opening minutes. Caoimhin Kelleher, seriously called upon just once on a bitterly cold night in Yorkshire, was able to keep a clean sheet with some ease. Indeed, it was errors made by those in front of him that most often threatened to spoil his evening. Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez gifted the ball to the home side several times, but an attack that’s been blunt all season were no sharper against Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s men, meanwhile, had so much easy possession that the game lacked pace and intensity throughout.
Liverpool offered their greatest threat from set pieces and it was from a corner that Van Dijk put his side in front as the 40-minute mark approached. As players tumbled in the penalty box, the Dutch centre-half had the freedom of the pitch to ease into a side-foot low-driven volley and, despite a quick VAR check amidst home side protestations, the goal stood.
The second half took the same pattern as the first. Sheffield United ceding possession while relying on long throws and free-kicks to try and get back in the game. Liverpool, meanwhile, never really opened up a disciplined display from United and it wasn’t until Darwin Nunez came off the bench with 20 minutes remaining that a second goal looked certain. However, the Uruguayan fluffed his lines only to redeem himself in the final moments.
After losing possession whilst dribbling, he retrieved the ball superbly and, despite yet more howls of protest from opposition fans and players, the referee adjudged it a fair tackle. He superbly spotted Szoboszlai in acres of space, the Hungarian bore down on goal and smashed the ball home.
So after that drama of Sunday, this was certainly a more mundane display, though equally as valuable. With Arsenal grabbing all three points on Tuesday at Luton, another victory for Liverpool was imperative to keep pace with the Gunners. Klopp, however, now has another injury to contend with. Following the news that Joel Matip’s ACL will likely sideline him for the rest of the season, the site of Alexis Mac Allister hobbling off the pitch in the second half was probably only tempered by the news that Manchester City had dropped yet more points after defeat at Villa Park.
Liverpool now have the very real possibility of topping the Premier League table on Saturday. Yet another 12:30 kick-off and a Crystal Palace team short on points and confidence is all that can stop Klopp’s men from completing a fourth victory in just 10 days.