Liverpool got back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory at Sheffield United to move within two points of the top four in the Premier League on Sunday night.
Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool
Premier League (26), Anfield
February 28, 2021
Goals: Jones 48′, Bryan OG 65′
Adrian – 7 (out of 10)
Must have thought he wouldn’t play again for the Reds after dropping to third choice.
Made two decent saves and one punch clear in the first 20 minutes to build confidence, though also got himself in a dreadful spot for the Ozan Kabak almost-own-goal.
Came a long way out of his box to clear a ball over the top on the hour mark and when he didn’t end up falling over, crashing into a defender or missing the ball entirely, it was clear this would be a different kind of day for the Reds.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8
A decent dribble and strike almost led to a goal, but the most interesting aspect of his first-half performance was watching him sit deeper as a third defender in play, altering the Reds’ shape.
Made the brave, brilliant run to the byline in the leadup to the first goal and even when he was in deep areas, his ability to switch play was in full view.
Ozan Kabak – 6
Won a couple of important early headers and made a good block from Oli McBurnie. Got lucky, though, when he misjudged a lofted ball and diverted it into the net on the bounce – only for the offside flag to rescue him.
Caught out of position by McBurnie second half, but recovered well to make the tackle.
Nat Phillips – 6
Missed a couple of tackles and won a couple of headers. Wasn’t his finest 45 minutes in the first half, but in fairness having a shaved head probably took some getting used to.
The Blades’ big chance to equalise saw McBurnie get in space behind Nat – a real let-off when he headed wide.
Andy Robertson – 7
Spurned a few decent crossing chances when in good positions high upfield, but was always a regular outlet for the Reds.
All too often his final pass went astray or behind the intended target, but given he’s always running at full-tilt when he takes the touch, it’s difficult to be too critical.
Gini Wijnaldum – 7
Almost rattled in a decent goal from a rare rampage forward. Shows again that he could be used in that way, if availability elsewhere allowed it.
Defensively he was pretty solid and on the ball he was his usual safe and reliable self.
Curtis Jones – 9 – Man of the Match
Opposition players can’t get near him, on or off the ball.
His movement and control are exceptional and once the Reds are in more fluid, all-conquering form further down the line, the full quality of this talented youngster will be impossible to ignore.
Scored the all-important breakthrough goal with a moment of real composure which was much-needed.
Involved in the second goal, too.
Thiago – 7
Kept moving the ball quickly and won some important tackles in the middle.
Wasn’t anywhere near the biggest or most important cog on the ball for the Reds, but filled his role perfectly well.
Mohamed Salah – 7
Showed good footwork to create a chance or two and almost scored a fine opener with his right foot.
Kept the width an awful lot, which helped in buildup play, and also ensured he did plenty of defensive covering in the first half.
Nearly netted a late third but was on the stretch and sent it wide right-footed.
Roberto Firmino – 7
Should have buried an early chance, no question.
A further opening came as he squared a rebound he might have shot from himself – took the correct choice with the cutback for me, Geoff, just should have found Salah – and plenty of his movement led to through-passes and runs off the ball from others.
His goal took a big deflection – was ultimately given as an own goal, in fact – but he absolutely deserved it for the dribble to evade four defenders and the single-minded intent he showed to get the ball from a wide-right position to almost inside the six-yard box.
Sadio Mane – 6
A strangely awkward display at times; Mane worked hard and did his defensive work, but was a little predictable with his passing in the final third and repeated attempts to link play.
Was comfortably offside when he stuck the ball in the net, but the composure and clinical moment was still nice to see. Teed up Bobby for the second while being fouled.
Naby Keita (on for Jones, 80′) – 6 – Nice to see two back from injury.
Subs not used: Ojrzynski, Hughes, R.Williams, N.Williams, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Origi
Jurgen Klopp – 9
Stuck with the front six after a full week of training and preparation, but the defensive tactics looked to get a bit of a tweak with Trent sitting in as a third centre-back.
The knock-on effect was different players running into the box – Jones through the middle, Robertson in off the flank in particular – and the suspicion may be that this was a test run for upcoming games against Chelsea and Leipzig, both of whom could play a back three, like the Blades.
There were plenty of chances and the Reds could have been four up by the break, but it’s a good day regardless to get one clean sheet, two goals and three points.
The subs were standard, but fine: two players getting a runout after injury, midfielders being taken off to save their legs as they’re needed to start almost every game.
No complaints at all with how the Reds appear to have used the week between games to change a few components of play and get back to winning ways.