Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool “deserved” victory at Sheffield United despite needing a “lucky” Georginio Wijnaldum goal to continue their perfect start to the Premier League season at a raucous Bramall Lane.
The winner was a moment to forget for the otherwise faultless Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who spilt the Dutchman’s tame effort before it squirmed agonisingly over the line.
“It’s normal you have to work hard for the points,” said Klopp. “You have to stay concentrated and do the right things. We did today. It was never a clicking day, it was an average day.
“We were deserved winners. If it’s 0-0 we cannot moan and would not. But if there’s one winner it should be us. We worked hard for it. Winning in days like this is extremely worthy. We scored a lucky goal, we know that. But the boys worked so hard for it.”
Klopp’s side was far from their best in South Yorkshire – and left thankful that the hosts could not find a way through in a game where they matched the European champions in many respects.
Substitute Leon Clarke, making his Premier League debut at the age of 34, should have levelled it late on, but blazed over.
Liverpool has won their first seven league games of the season, and have a five-point lead at the top of the early-season table.
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When the story of the 2019-20 season is told, this may be looked back on as one of Liverpool’s most crucial but most fortunate victories.
The first half, though goalless, was thrilling. For all of the visitors’ early pressure, it was Chris Wilder’s side who had the first sight of goal when Ollie McBurnie stung the palms of Adrian.
Liverpool’s first clear chance came as a result of a long ball over the top from Virgil van Dijk, but Sadio Mane’s finish when through on goal was wild and wayward, while Senegal forward later struck the post.
After the break, United may have hit the front, but for alert defending from Joel Matip and Andrew Robertson to frustrate the enthusiastic John Lundstram.
At the other end, when a penalty appeal for Lundstram’s challenge on Mane was denied, it seemed that Liverpool may have to settle for a point.
With time running out, the Merseysiders withdrew Jordan Henderson for Divock Origi, and the move to a 4-2-3-1 formation ultimately paid off when Wijnaldum’s shot snuck in.
Earlier this week, the Champions League winners were told they had failed in their attempt to copyright the word Liverpool. This performance lacked their usual trademarks too.
Indeed, they were lucky not to be punished when Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold coughed up possession early on.
There’s no questioning the relentless force that is this Liverpool side, but for the second weekend in a row, they rode their luck to notch up a league win on the road. But where the Reds were clinical in the 2-1 win at Chelsea, they were wasteful in the Steel City.
Whether it was Mane blazing over or against the post in the first 45 minutes, or Mohamed Salah’s spurned effort one-on-one with Henderson after they had taken the lead, they were not at their flowing best.
However, few if any of their supporters will now lose sleep over the fact Wijnaldum’s goal on 70 minutes was their first shot on target at last season’s Championship runners-up.
They arrived for this match amid news that they could be kicked out of the Carabao Cup for allegedly fielding an ineligible player in the 2-0 win at MK Dons on Wednesday.
As far as their quest for that elusive first Premier League title goes, it remains full steam ahead – although ex-boss Brendan Rodgers and his Leicester City side will provide another stern test in their next league game.
Ahead of kick-off, the sides emerged to the sound of a near 32,000 crowd that shook the very foundations of what is one of the oldest stadiums in the country.
And although they were cruelly denied a deserved point for their efforts in this match, there’s much to hearten the Blades. The legacy of this performance should be that lazy stereotyping of Sheffield United as being tactically basic from some pundits must end.
In this game, they not only matched Liverpool’s passing style but took the game to their revered opponents, pressing high and chasing everything – with the Reds often forced to pass back to goalkeeper Adrian.
Unfortunately, there are no points for effort.
Henderson’s decisive mistake will prompt grimaced faces, and perhaps the hosts could and should have scored… but this defeat does not necessarily need to be attributed to a villain.
In his pre-match press call, Wilder said: “the long-term challenge” was for this kind of game to become a regular fixture at Bramall Lane. The way they have started life back in the top flight suggests they’re more than capable of fulfilling that aim.
Source – BBC