With some strong creative flourished hampered by a lack of clinical touch in attack, Liverpool fell to a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United at Anfield.
Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
Premier League – Anfield – Sunday 17th January 2016
Goals: Rooney 78′
After an enthralling 3-3 draw at home to Arsenal on Wednesday night, Jurgen Klopp faced another tough challenge as north-west rivals United took to Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
Ahead of the game, much of the focus was on the rivalry enjoyed between Liverpool and United over the years, and while the two sides went into this clash in 9th and 6th place respectively, it represented a hugely important fixture.
Making just one change to the side that drew with the Gunners, Klopp brought in Lucas Leiva for Jordon Ibe, with the German clearly looking to shore up his midfield against United’s 4-2-3-1.
It proved to be a hopeless, with Liverpool falling to a 1-0 defeat, and Klopp must now look for reinforcements in the attacking sector.
It took 10 minutes for either side to create an opening, and Liverpool’s first opportunity came from the feet of Lucas, with the Brazilian curling a long pass over the United defence and into the path of Adam Lallana, who was unable to beat an onrushing David de Gea on the bounce.
Liverpool continued this direct attacking approach, with a sumptuous, raking pass from Roberto Firmino giving James Milner a chance on the right flank, but the Englishman could not convert.
This set the tone for the first half-hour, with Klopp’s midfield rotating positions and dictating play with some impressive direct passing play, but without any clear openings in the United penalty area.
Henderson came closest for the Reds during this period, with Lucas and Firmino combining to lay a ball into the captain’s path in the box, but he was unable to send it beyond De Gea.
The 25-year-old saw the best of the opportunities as the first half went on, but consistently failed to find the net with some ambitious efforts.
Firmino had a penalty call ignored by referee Mark Clattenburg on 38 minutes, after being bundled over on the ball by Anthony Martial, with the United winger making his first contribution to proceedings.
United’s flow was disrupted even further as Ashley Young was forced to withdraw himself through injury, with 18-year-old Cameron Borthwick-Jackson taking his place.
However, as Clattenburg blew for half-time the scores remained even, and Klopp could perhaps feel disappointed in his side’s work in the final third.
Liverpool kept up the tempo after the interval, with Emre Can coming closest to putting his side 1-0 up in the first minutes of the second half, but De Gea was on hand to divert the German’s low shot behind goal.
Martial then found himself in a similar position in the Liverpool box, but the Frenchman was unable to add to his tally against the Reds as he fired his effort just wide of Mignolet’s goal.
Henderson had another opportunity after some wonderful attacking play from Firmino, but the ex-Sunderland midfielder once again spurned his effort, side-footing straight into De Gea’s grasp.
Louis van Gaal was the first to roll the dice tactically, replacing Jesse Lingard with Juan Mata on 66 minutes.
However, it was his Spaniard at the other end that kept Van Gaal’s side in it, with De Gea making two outstanding saves to stop Can and Firmino.
Seemingly following the narrative, Wayne Rooney then went on to put United 1-0 up on 78 minutes, powering home from close range after a Fellaini effort hit the crossbar.
Klopp then went for it, bringing Kolo Toure off and introducing Christian Benteke, moving Lucas into defence and switching to an attacking 4-2-4 formation.
But with an air of inevitability spreading around Anfield as the contest drew to a close, the Belgian was unable to make the difference.
Despite dominating throughout, a lack of cutting edge cost Klopp’s Reds, and the German’s desire to sign a striker will no doubt swell following this poor attacking showing on Merseyside.
TIA Man of the Match: Roberto Firmino
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure (Benteke 81′), Sakho, Moreno; Lucas, Henderson, Can; Lallana (Ibe 76′), Milner (Caulker 19′), Firmino
Subs not used: Ward, Smith, Allen, Teixeira.
Manchester United: De Gea; Young (Borthwick-Jackson 42′), Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Fellaini, Schneiderlin; Lingard (Mata 66′), Herrara (Depay 72′), Martial; Rooney
Subs not used: Romero, McNair, Varela, Pereira.
LIVERPOOL 0-1 MAN UNTIED
MATCH REPORT: Listless Reds punished for lack of cutting edge
FAN REACTIONS: “No top four this season”
TACTICAL OVERVIEW: Attacking deficiency restricts Reds
PRESS CONFERENCE: Klopp dejected
PLAYER RATINGS: Sakho and Toure good, Lallana and Can not
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