Three things we learned: Sheffield United - Liverpool
Sheffield United - Liverpool: The Reds arrested their four-game losing skid with a 2-0 victory, and a strong performance to match, at Bramall Lane on Sunday.
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Curtis Jones and Roberto Firmino (later changed to an own goal by Kean Bryan) got the goals for 6th-place Liverpool, who moved to within two points of 4th-place West Ham United and one point of 5th-place Chelsea after the London sides lost and drew, respectively, this weekend.
3 things we learned: Sheffield United - Liverpool
1. Liverpool looked comfortable, finally: With just two wins from 11 Premier League games (2W-3D-6L) heading into the weekend, it had been quite some time since Liverpool controlled and dominated a game which looked like a foregone conclusion they would win. Despite some marginally poor finishing and an otherworldly performance from goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale in the first half, Jurgen Klopp’s side never wavered and stayed the course. Now, if only they could play the bottom-of-the-table team every weekend…
2. Blades a good test run for Kabak, Phillips: The list of center backs (and center back options) unavailable for Liverpool these days is truly astounding: Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. Without any of his first five central defenders available, not to mention January signing Ben White out due to illness, Klopp was forced to call upon another January signing, 20-year-old Ozan Kabak, and seldom-used academy product Nathaniel Phillips on Sunday. Sunday’s game marked Liverpool’s first clean sheet since Jan. 17 (seven games with 13 goals conceded).
3. Blades slump closer to relegation: With 12 games left to play, Sheffield United are 15 points adrift of safety. It won’t be long until they official countdown to relegation begins. With every loss, and with every point won by teams just above 18th place, the inevitable gets closer to reality.
Liverpool should have gone ahead in the 10th minute, but Ramsdale denied Roberto Firmino one-on-one as the Brazilian raced into the penalty area unobstructed. Firmino tried it hammer the ball to Ramsdale’s right but the Blades ‘keeper booted it away with a trailing leg.
Trent Alexander-Arnold forced Ramsdale into a tough save in the 32nd minute, as he cut in from the right wing and hit a left-footed shot toward the upper-left-hand corner of Ramsdale’s goal, but again Sheffield United’s no. 1 was too good to be beaten.
Ozan Kabak endured a momentary nightmare in the 36th minute, when he poked the ball past Adrian and into his own net, only to be rescued by the offside flag. Oli McBurnie was ever so slightly early in making his run behind as the ball floated over the top, but Kabak recovered well before playing it all wrong once it arrived.
Three minutes later, Ramsdale was forced to make another tough save as Georginio Wijnaldum uncorked a laser from the edge of the box. The ball looked headed for Ramsdale’s right-hand post, but again he refused to be beaten.
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Liverpool finally finished a chance in the 48th minute, and it looked like the goal would be taken off the board after video review revealed the ball had crossed the end line before Alexander-Arnold crossed for Jones to slot it home. Alas, the sequence was upheld and the goal stood.
Six minutes later, Sadio Mane put the ball past Ramsdale and into goal but the offside flag went up immediately.
As brilliantly as Ramsdale played throughout, he was terribly hard done by for Liverpool’s second goal in the 64th minute. Firmino weaved his way through a sea of red and white shirts, one of which massively deflected the shot and sent it bounding the other way. All Ramsdale could do was watch helplessly as he stumbled backward.