Liverpool hadn’t won at Bramall Lane since 1990 heading into the latest visit to Sheffield United. They perhaps didn’t deserve to do so here, but came away with a 1-0 victory thanks to Gini Wijnaldum’s second-half strike.
Chris Wilder’s side defended with heart and strength all afternoon, but a goalkeeping error from Blades stopper Dean Henderson allowed the Dutchman’s effort to squirm over the line after coming through a crowd of players.
The Reds were poor throughout, but will be delighted to come away with three vital points after a performance lacking their usual quality and ruthlessness.
Liverpool saw lots of the ball in the early stages, but the hosts had the first effort on goal when a break resulted in Oli McBurnie having a go from the edge of the area. It was a decent hit, but straight at Adrián.
True to form, Sheffield United stuck to their system, suffocating every inch of space for the visitors before getting themselves forward at every opportunity. Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular was struggling with overloads down the left flank.
The breakthrough should have come on 36 minutes when a simple ball over the top from Virgil van Dijk found Sadio Mané in behind the United defence, but he rushed his effort and sliced it high and wide when it was perhaps easier to score.
The Senegalese would have an even better opportunity courtesy of a 4v2 break on the stroke of half time, but his effort only found the post after he tried to squeeze it past Dean Henderson.
Shouts for a Liverpool penalty were the only real happening of note early in the second half. John Lundstram seemed to slide in late on Mané in the box, but Anthony Taylor was entirely uninterested.
Finally, the deadlock would be broken in bizarre fashion. A speculative effort from range by Wijnaldum went through a crowd and caught Henderson by surprise. Somehow, the ball squirmed underneath the goalkeeper and trickled agonisingly over the line.
It should have been two minutes later as Mohamed Salah found himself through on goal, but the goalkeeper spread himself well to deny the Egyptian and atone for his earlier error.
Leon Clarke should have equalised late on with a golden opportunity which came from John Fleck’s brilliant ball into the box, but his effort sailed over the bar and the Reds held on for a scrappy victory in South Yorkshire.
FC RB Salzburg are Liverpool’s next opponent, as the Austrian side visit Anfield in the UEFA Champions League for the first ever meeting between the clubs.