Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool
Premier League (15), Bramall Lane
December 6, 2023
Goals: Van Dijk 37′, Szoboslzai 90+5′
Caoimhin Kelleher (out of 10) – 7
After a shaky return to the team against Fulham on Sunday, the pressure was on Kelleher to perform here, and he deserves real credit for his performance.
The Irishman made a big save to deny James McAtee early on that Alisson would have been proud of, and was reliable with his handling all evening.
Big show of character and he’ll be delighted with a cleansheet.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
Liverpool’s No.66 has been in inspired form of late, and while not at top gear against the Blades, he played well overall.
It was the 25-year-old’s assist from a corner that allowed Van Dijk to open the scoring, and he was always looking to make things happen with his world-class vision.
One lazy piece of defending earned him a rollocking from Van Dijk, though, and rightly so. Has to be better there.
Ibrahima Konate – 6
With Joel Matip out for months, it was only natural that Konate came into the team, with some big performances needed over the festive period.
The Frenchman was unpredictable at the back, using his pace and strength effectively, but also proving to be sloppy on the ball at times, also conceding a silly foul.
Won some big headers late on from long throws.
Virgil van Dijk – 9 (Man of the Match)
Van Dijk was excellent at Bramall Lane, as has been the case all season long, with Liverpool’s captain easily the standout figure.
He made one important block, showing real patience in not going to the man too soon, and he fired home the opener with a great volleyed finish.
The best centre-back in Europe again after a year off – don’t listen to anyone suggesting otherwise – and he barely put a foot wrong, holding a below-par Liverpool together.
Joe Gomez – 6
Gomez started at left-back, but he didn’t always look wholly convincing in the role, making a dreadful start with an error on the halfway line that nearly led to a goal.
Some erratic passing followed, but in fairness he grew into the game and linked well with Luis Diaz down the left flank.
We all know Gomez’s limitations at left-back, but his effort levels couldn’t be questioned.
Wataru Endo – 7
Endo was one of Liverpool’s heroes against Fulham and he was rewarded with a start on Wednesday, performing largely well in front of the defence.
He was booked for one reckless tackle on the touchline, and made a slow start like so many, but his passing was crisp and he did what was asked of him.
He may be needed to start again on Saturday after Mac Allister’s injury…
Alexis Mac Allister – 5
After a starring role at the weekend, including a magnificent first Reds’ goal, Mac Allister was deployed as a No.8 – something he will no doubt have been happy with.
But the Argentine suffered an injury early on – one that looked serious initially – and he really struggled to impose himself on proceedings, having just 10 touches in the opening 40 minutes.
A stinging half-volley from distance was tipped over the crossbar, but he went off injured after taking another knock. Strange that he was kept on so long.
Dominik Szoboszlai – 7
Szoboszlai has been quieter by his standards in recent weeks, and this was another performance that was again slightly underwhelming until the final minutes.
There was typical box-to-box energy, as the Hungarian looked to make things happen, but his final ball was hit-and-miss.
We hold Szoboszlai to high standards after such a great start at Anfield, though, and he took his goal brilliantly to seal the win, managing the game well late on, too.
Mohamed Salah – 5
Salah was again in search of his 200th Liverpool goal, but as was the case at home to Fulham, he was a long way short of his best.
There were typical deft touches and dangerous pieces of movement, but his final decision was poor and he is snatching at chances right now.
Somehow kept out by Wes Foderingham, prior to being replaced midway through the second half.
Luis Diaz – 7
Diaz hasn’t always been at his electric best this season, but he was one of Liverpool’s most purposeful attacking players here.
The Colombian found plenty of space out wide, taking on his man and linking with Gomez, and he crossed brilliantly for one effort that Salah volleyed over.
Still not the explosive figure he was before the knee injury, but a good display, nonetheless.
Cody Gakpo – 6
Gakpo has produced some promising showings in the last few matches and he was handed a start in the No.9 role.
More was wanted from the 24-year-old, however, who found himself on the periphery of the action, being marked well by United’s defenders and trying to affect the game from deep.
There were sporadic moments of quality, but he didn’t offer the threat of Darwin Nunez.
Curtis Jones (on for Mac Allister, 59′) – 6
Kept the ball well, but fairly forgettable. Is he carrying an injury?
Harvey Elliott (on for Salah, 67′) – 6
Came on and kept the ball well, as ever.
Darwin Nunez (on for Diaz, 67′) – 6
Offered a threat, but missed a one-on-one chance that he needed to score. Then set up the second goal at least.
Ryan Gravenberch (on for Gakpo, 86′) – n/a
Subs not used: Adrian, Pitaluga, Quansah, Tsimikas, Bradley
Jurgen Klopp – 7
It was always clear that some rotation would be on show from Klopp this month, considering the relentlessness of the fixtures, so his starting XI made plenty of sense.
The German knew how vital a win was, in terms of staying in touch with Arsenal, and his side got the job done in iffy fashion, in truth.
Starting Mac Allister was a bit strange and keeping him on when injured was even more bizarre given he had three No.8s on the bench. Hopefully it doesn’t prove a costly error.
This was yet another away performance against limited opposition that felt flat, although Liverpool did still limited United to few chances and was largely professional in their work.
Improvements are required at Crystal Palace on Saturday, but we can’t argue with being two points off the top.