Liverpool 2 Sheffield United 1: Another defeat - but Blades should be confident that better days are not far away
A first win of the season remains elusive but Sheffield United should leave Anfield confident, if they can continue to play with the same creativity and tenacity they demonstrated during the opening two thirds of this contest, that a breakthrough is not far away.
Goals from Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota stretched Liverpool’s unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 62 matches, after Sander Berge had fired Chris Wilder’s side in front from the penalty spot.
United’s coaching staff will be disappointed by the result, which leaves them 19th in the Premier League table ahead of next weekend’s meeting with Manchester City. But they can only have been encouraged by the quality of their team’s performance against the reigning champions.
Attitude, coupled with an intelligent game plan and a bold, aggressive approach, were United’s most effective weapons on Merseyside - where they handed record signing Rhian Brewster a full debut against his former club.
George Baldock’s energy along the flanks was only surpassed by the quality of his delivery from wide positions, while the selections of both Ben Osborn and Ethan Ampadu very nearly proved inspired - with the latter providing rhythm and composure at the base of United’s midfield. The visitors’ efforts went unrewarded in terms of points, but they will return to South Yorkshire with renewed belief and confidence.
Berge edged United into the lead when a VAR review correctly ruled that Fabinho’s foul on Oli McBurnie had taken place inside the box. McBurnie, tireless in attack, could have doubled their lead soon after but dragged wide, while Osborn drew a smart reaction save from Alisson.
Firmino drew Liverpool level just before half-time, when the ball fell kindly for him after Aaron Ramsdale had done well to parry Sadio Mane’s header from a Jordan Henderson cross. Jota nodded home just past the hour mark to stretch the hosts’ unbeaten run on home soil to 62 league games. But substitute Oliver Burke, who impressed after replacing Brewster early in the second period, could have secured United a share of the spoils at the death - snatching at his shot and sending it wide after escaping Liverpool’s defence.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Gomez, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jota (Milner 83), Firmino (Minamino 83), Salah, Mane. Not used: Adrian, Jones, Shaqiri, Phillps, N Williams.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Basham, Egan, Ampadu, Baldock, Stevens, Lundstram (McGoldrick 75), Berge, Osborn, McBurnie, Brewster (Burke 53). Not used: Verrips, Norwood, Sharp, Robinson, Jagielka.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral). VAR: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).