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SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Virgil van Dijk “back to commanding best” as “businesslike” Liverpool push on

Liverpool’s 2-0 win away to Sheffield United on Wednesday wasn’t always pretty, but those watching on from the media still saw plenty of positives on show.

The Reds triumphed at Bramall Lane in the Premier League, on a night that saw them short of their best, but still largely dominant.

Goals from Virgil van Dijk and Dominik Szoboszlai got Liverpool over the line, putting them back to within two points of Arsenal at the top of the table.

Here’s how the media reacted to Jurgen Klopp‘s side’s latest victory.

 

It was a gritty win for the Reds, who weren’t great on the night…

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai scores the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Lewis Steele of the Daily Mail felt it was a real grind for the Reds, with the win well-earned:

Virgil van Dijk’s first-half volley and Dominik Szoboszlai’s 95th-minute strike helped the Reds keep up the pressure on Arsenal in the title race, with this their second of nine games in a Christmas and New Year period which will define whether they are contenders or pretenders.

“But Jurgen Klopp was often left berating his team on the touchline after misplaced passes, poor touches and shoddy finishing left the door ajar to a Blades comeback.

“If Wilder’s attacking players had a bit more about them, they could have punished Liverpool.

“Klopp’s men were by far the dominant side but United had a number of good chances. Several times, they got into good areas but fluffed their lines, with Cameron Archer too often guilty of hesitating in front of goal, being unsure whether to pass or shoot and ending up doing neither.”

On X, David Lynch admitted that it wasn’t perfect from the Reds, but likened it to the 1-0 win at Bramall Lane in 2019/20:

Michael Beardmore of BBC Sport was another who focused on the hard-earned nature of the victory:

“While this was far from a classic Liverpool display, boss Jurgen Klopp will have taken delight in the businesslike manner they handled proceedings, considering the occasion and partisan atmosphere.

[…]

“There was still the odd sign of the defensive issues that have plagued Liverpool this season but they registered a first clean sheet in nine away trips.”

 

Colossal captain Van Dijk was fantastic all evening…

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai (R) celebrates with team-mate captain Virgil van Dijk after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gregg Evans of The Athletic believes the 32-year-old is as good as ever:

“Van Dijk is back to his commanding best. There is only one defender in the Premier League this season who has won more aerial duels than the Dutchman — Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock.

“No player has managed to dribble past him this season, either, a statistic that has highlighted his dominance in England in years gone by, too.

“But something that is often overlooked is his goalscoring numbers and the centre-back popped up to score a crucial goal to put his side ahead against Sheffield United.

“The 32-year-old is the highest-scoring defender in the Premier League since his debut for Liverpool in January 2018.

“That Van Dijk is able to combine consistently brilliant defensive performances and remain a goalscoring threat is something that has served his team well over the years. Liverpool might never see another defender like him.”

Writing for This Is Anfield, Lynch hailed both Van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate‘s performances:

“It is testament to Ibrahima Konate‘s quality that this week’s loss of Joel Matip to injury did not leave Liverpool fans completely bereft.

“But it doesn’t half help that the man alongside him is an utter colossus capable of forming a formidable partnership with anyone, as was seen against Sheffield United.

“In the end, it was Konate who took on a dominant role, winning a ludicrous 14 aerial duels, as well as making five tackles and three interceptions.

“However, Virgil van Dijk‘s four clearances and four aerials won were also complemented by a goal and a leadership of the back four that makes the Reds hard to get at.”

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Daniel Orme of the Mirror singled out the Dutchman for praise, both for his goal and defensive work:

“It looked likely to be a first half of frustration for Liverpool as they dominated plenty of possession but barely threatened Wes Foderingham’s goal. That was until Van Dijk managed to get free from a corner to slot home the opening goal.

“The Blades were left baffled that the towering Dutch defender was left completely unmarked to score. That was until replays showed Anel Ahmedhodzic tripped in the scuffle before Van Dijk scored – the Liverpool man seemingly bringing him down.

“VAR took a look at the incident but did not see reason to disallow his goal as Liverpool celebrated their opening goal.

“Away from his strike, the Dutchman was decisive defensively as he marshalled the Reds defence – something that proved crucial until the closing stages.”

Speaking in a post-match video, Steele lauded Liverpool’s captain, also dissecting the performance as a whole:

 

The Premier League title race was assessed…

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's second goal-scorer Dominik Szoboszlai (R) celebrates with team-mates Kostas Tsimikas (L) and Alexis Mac Allister (C) after the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mike McGrath of the Telegraph hinted that Liverpool need to improve away to remain firm title contenders:

“Liverpool were hardly at their most fluent but had enough to be worthy winners. It was just their third win in eight away games this season.

“It has been their form away from Anfield that has prevented them from reaching the summit but their fixtures on the road for the rest of December is an opportunity to get into the habit of winning in their unfamiliar purple change kit.”

The Independent‘s Karl Matchett says Liverpool are very much staying in touch with Arsenal:

“Liverpool edged out Sheffield United by a 2-0 scoreline at Bramall Lane, the relatively low scoreline perhaps reflecting the lack of quality on show rather more than the gulf in possession and intent between the teams.”

[…]

“It wasn’t as dramatic, as exciting or as emotional as Arsenal’s latest win on the road, but it counts for exactly the same in league terms.

“And when the margin for error is as close to nil as it has been over the past few years, that’s all that will matter for Jurgen Klopp tonight.”