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Sheffield United 0-1 Liverpool: Wijnaldum goal keeps Reds’ flawless start going


Georginio Wijnaldum; Firmino

Georginio Wijnaldum’s winner was his 22nd Premier League goal – but just his third away from home

Georginio Wijnaldum scored the only goal as Liverpool continued their perfect start to the Premier League season with victory over Sheffield United at a raucous Bramall Lane.

But the winner was a moment to forget for otherwise faultless Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who spilled the Dutchman’s tame effort before it squirmed agonisingly over the line.

It meant relief for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who were far from their best in South Yorkshire – and left thankful that the hosts could not find a way through in a game where they matched the European champions in many respects.

Substitute Leon Clarke, making his Premier League debut at the age of 34, should have levelled it late on, but blazed over.

Liverpool have won their first seven league games of the season, and before Saturday’s 15:00 BST matches, they have an eight-point lead at the top of the early season table.

Klopp’s Reds were rightly expected to win this game – and ultimately did. But when the story of the 2019-20 season is told, this may be looked back on as one of Liverpool’s most crucial but most fortunate victories.

The first half, though goalless, was thrilling. For all of the visitors’ early pressure, it was Chris Wilder’s side who had the first sight of goal when Ollie McBurnie stung the palms of Adrian.

Liverpool’s first clear chance came as a result of a long ball over the top from Virgil van Dijk, but Sadio Mane’s finish when through on goal was wild and wayward, while the Senegal forward later struck the post.

After the break, United may have hit the front, but for alert defending from Joel Matip and Andrew Robertson to frustrate the enthusiastic John Lundstram.

At the other end, when a penalty appeal for Lundstram’s challenge on Mane was denied, it seemed that Liverpool may have to settle for a point.

With time running out, the Merseysiders withdrew Jordan Henderson for Divock Origi, and the move to a 4-2-3-1 formation ultimately paid off with Wijnaldum’s fortunate finish.

Reds ride their luck

Earlier this week, the Champions League winners were told they had failed in their attempt to copyright the word Liverpool. This performance lacked their usual trademarks too.

Indeed, they were lucky not to be punished when Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold coughed up possession early on.

There’s no questioning the relentless force that is this Liverpool side, but for the second weekend in a row they rode their luck to notch up a league win on the road. But where the Reds were clinical in the 2-1 win at Chelsea, they were wasteful in the Steel City.

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Sadio Mane endured a frustrating afternoon in front of goal at Bramall Lane

Whether it was Mane blazing over or against the post in the first 45 minutes, or Mohamed Salah’s spurned effort one-on-one with Henderson after they had taken the lead, they were not at their flowing best.

However, few if any of their supporters will now lose sleep over the fact Wijnaldum’s goal on 70 minutes was their first shot on target at last season’s Championship runners-up.

They arrived for this match amid news that they could be kicked out of the Carabao Cup for allegedly fielding an ineligible player in the 2-0 win at MK Dons on Wednesday.

As far as their quest for that elusive first Premier League title goes, it remains full steam ahead – although ex-boss Brendan Rodgers and his Leicester City side will provide another stern test in their next league game.

Wilder’s side show their worth

Ahead of kick-off, the sides emerged to the sound of a near 32,000 crowd that shook the very foundations of what is one of the oldest stadiums in the country.

And although they were cruelly denied a deserved point for their efforts in this match, there’s much to hearten the Blades. The legacy of this performance should be that lazy stereotyping of Sheffield United as being tactically basic from some pundits must end.

In this game, they not only matched Liverpool’s passing style, but took the game to their revered opponents, pressing high and chasing everything – with the Reds often forced to pass back to goalkeeper Adrian.

Unfortunately, there are no points for effort.

Henderson’s decisive mistake will prompt grimaced faces, and perhaps the hosts could and should have scored… but this defeat does not necessarily need to be attributed to a villain.

In his pre-match press call, Wilder said “the long-term challenge” was for this kind of game to become a regular fixture at Bramall Lane. The way they have started life back in the top flight suggests they’re more than capable of fulfilling that aim.

Man of the match – John Fleck (Sheffield United)

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Fleck was a force for the hosts in both boxes and was unfortunate not to come away from this match without a goal or an assist to match his effort

‘Not overly happy’ – what they said

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: “I am not bothered about pride, I am bothered about the result. Liverpool had an off day and I think we missed an opportunity. In pressurised situations we need to remain composed. We were delighted with the shape but their chances came from our mistakes.

“We have had big moments in the game but we did not take them. We had to jump all over it and we didn’t. We had enough to get something out of this game but we did not take our opportunities. Points are the most important thing and we did not get the points we deserved today.”

On Dean Henderson: “If he wants to be a professional footballer, these things are going to happen. But if he wants to play for the top teams, he wants to play for England, then he needs to do better, he needs to concentrate more. It’s a disappointing day for him. I am not going to put my arms around him, simply he needs to do better.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, speaking to BT Sport: “For us it was important to win. We had unbelievably big chances. In the first half we had two big chances and in the second one which we scored from. These games, they are not all beauties and you have to work hard for the results.

“You have to respect the opponent. We had good moments and it was one of these games you have to win but not think too much about it. One team deserved to win, which was us, but all respect to Sheffield United, they were tough.

“I am fine with the game – not overly happy, but it happens. We were concentrated at set pieces. For 95 minutes the boys were spot on. We didn’t play our best football but there we are.”

Reds closing in on top flight records – stats

  • Liverpool have won their first seven games of a league season for only the second time, after 1990-91.
  • Sheffield United have lost three consecutive home games in the top-flight for the first time since October 1990.
  • Klopp’s side have won their last 16 Premier League games, their best ever top-flight winning streak and one bettered only by Manchester City in the Premier League (18 between August and December 2017).
  • Liverpool are also unbeaten in their last 24 Premier League games. Only between May 1987 and March 1988 have they had a longer unbeaten run in the top flight (31 games).
  • Wijnaldum’s goal on 70 minutes was Liverpool’s first shot on target of the game, the longest the Reds have had to wait for a shot on target in the Premier League since 6 December 2015, courtesy of Dejan Lovren’s effort against Newcastle on 89 minutes.
  • Sheffield United’s Leon Clarke (34 years and 230 days) became the oldest Englishman to make his Premier League debut since Chris Lucketti (35 years 107 days), also for Sheffield United, against Portsmouth in January 2007.

What’s next?

Liverpool resume their Champions League campaign against Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg at Anfield on Wednesday, 2 October (20:00 BST). Klopp’s side then return to league action at home against Leicester City on Saturday, 5 October (15:00 BST).

On the same day, Sheffield United travel to Watford (also 15:00) in the final round of matches before October’s international break.

Live Text

Match ends, Sheffield United 0, Liverpool 1.

Second Half ends, Sheffield United 0, Liverpool 1.

Substitution, Liverpool. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaces Sadio Mané.

Attempt missed. Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by John Fleck with a cross.

Sadio Mané (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by George Baldock (Sheffield United).

Attempt missed. Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by George Baldock with a cross.

Attempt blocked. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Fabinho.

Attempt missed. Divock Origi (Liverpool) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Andrew Robertson.

Substitution, Liverpool. James Milner replaces Roberto Firmino.

Attempt missed. Leon Clarke (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by John Fleck with a through ball.

Adrián (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card.

Fabinho (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by George Baldock (Sheffield United).

Attempt blocked. Jack O’Connell (Sheffield United) header from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by John Lundstram with a cross.

Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Sadio Mané.

Foul by Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool).

Jack O’Connell (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right following a corner.

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Dean Henderson.

Attempt saved. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

Substitution, Sheffield United. Leon Clarke replaces Oliver Norwood.

Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Chris Basham.

Attempt saved. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

Attempt saved. Sadio Mané (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Divock Origi with a cross.

Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Enda Stevens (Sheffield United).

Goal! Sheffield United 0, Liverpool 1. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box to the centre of the goal.

Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Lys Mousset (Sheffield United).

Attempt blocked. John Lundstram (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Attempt blocked. John Fleck (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Enda Stevens.

Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Adrián.

Attempt saved. Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Enda Stevens.

Substitution, Liverpool. Divock Origi replaces Jordan Henderson.

Jack O’Connell (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card.

Foul by Sadio Mané (Liverpool).

Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Substitution, Sheffield United. Lys Mousset replaces Callum Robinson.

Attempt missed. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Mohamed Salah from a direct free kick.