Never in doubt.
Two changes for the Tricky Reds tonight, with Adrián replacing Alisson (who was excused on compassionate grounds after his father’s untimely death) and Phillips coming in to replace the injured Henderson. This did at least mean that we started with two actual centre halves, for the first time since the Merseyside Derby in October.
A fairly quiet opening saw Adrián make a sharp stop from McGoldrick’s far post header; at the other end, Ramsdale foiled first Firmino then Jones. Jagielka reacted sharply to clear when Jones was played in by Bobby, the youngster having slightly mid controlled the pass.
Bobby, who was looking a bit more like his old self, then released Mo down the right but the home keeper managed to deny the Egyptian with a good save made with his right foot. Ampadu then cleared straight to Trent, who cut inside and aimed for the top corner… Ramsdale to the rescue again. It looked like it was going to be yet another of “those” games.
Kabak then managed to nick the ball past Adrián, under pressure from McBurnie; fortunately, the forward was half a yard offside and the goal chalked off. Ramsdale then saved Gini’s drive from the edge of the box and Bobby tried to find Sadio from the rebound, instead of slotting it home himself. Another opportunity wasted.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, the champions had definitely been the better side but Sheffield United had certainly had their moments. Ramsdale had made several important saves but none of them had been “worldies” and that meant that our forwards weren’t putting them where he couldn’t reach them.
The breakthrough finally arrived three minutes into the second half. Trent did well to keep the ball in play, after his initial shot had been blocked, and crossed from the byline for Jones to clip home from about twelve yards out. The home defenders claimed that the ball had gone out of play but it was still partially in, so the goal rightly stood.
Trent put in another cross a few minutes later but Jones headed weakly, straight at the keeper; Sadio had a goal correctly disallowed for offside. McBurnie had a golden chance to equalise but could only steer his unmarked header wide from Norwood’s cross; the same player was then denied by Kabak’s clearance when poised to pull the trigger.
In the 64th minute, the Reds doubled their lead. Some neat interplay involving Jones and Mané ended with Bobby wriggling free on the edge of the area; his shot was heading well wide but deflected off Bryan and past Ramsdale to make it 2-0. That was, apparently, Liverpool’s 7,000th goal in top flight football… and it was officially credited to the unfortunate defender.
Milner replaced Thiago with a quarter of an hour left to play, shortly after Robbo had sliced an effort over from the edge of the box. Mo then crossed to Robbo, arriving unmarked in the are, but the rampaging left back could only head straight into the ground and the ball looped harmlessly to Ramsdale.
Robbo returned the favour with a lovely low cross but Salah somehow steered his effort wide, completely unmarked. Jones made way for the returning Baby with ten minutes left; the youngster had a good game but let’s hope that the Guinean can string a few appearances together at last, as we need all the fit players we can muster.
Mané stayed on his feet when Ampadu lunged at him in the area; I dare say players from certain other teams would have thrown themselves to the ground and been awarded a penalty for their efforts. Had Sadio done the same, there’s little doubt he would have been pilloried for diving.
Adrián denied Burke as he threatened to burst free as we entered stoppage time, but the hosts barely threatened and the champions were able to run down the clock comfortably. A most welcome three points to arrest our recent slump, even if there’s the caveat that it did come against the worst team in the division.
Next up is the visit of Chelsea to Anfield on Thursday evening. After Thomas Tuchel’s revitalised Chavs drew at home to Manchester United earlier today, another win is essential if the Reds want to get back into the thick of the scramble for a top four finish.
MOTM: those fine people at Artemis Karamolegos winery on the Greek island of Santorini. They are amongst the finest exponents of the wonderful Assyrtiko grape variety and their gorgeous 2017 Mystirio is especially highly recommended- I’ve just had a bottle with the rather splendid halibut steaks the missus cooked for dinner and were about to start on our second. γιαμας! (just for @Lowton_Red )