An injury time strike from Mohamed Salah assisted by Alisson after a simple long kick upfield sealed the win for Liverpool after more VAR controversy tainted the Premier League victory over Manchester United at Anfield.
A scrappy start to the game saw neither side settle quickly with the Reds being wasteful in possession and United struggling for quality on the odd occasion where they had time on the ball.
With this being said, the Reds showed just why they are so dangerous at Anfield as they overcame their far from ideal start to take the lead in the 14th minute through Virgil van Dijk.
Industrious play by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the English midfielder win a corner that proved to be United’s downfall. Trent Alexander-Arnold took the set-piece, lofting an inch-perfect ball into the centre of the area and into the path of the charging van Dijk. The Dutch centre-back outmuscled his marker and connected well with the ball, heading his effort passed the motionless David De Gea. 1-0 Liverpool.
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The goal seemed to remove all the nerves and pressure from Klopp’s side, who immediately kicked on following the opener and went in search of their second.
The Reds pressed high, pushing United further and further back into their own half and eventually forcing a mistake out of their visitors who almost allowed Sadio Mane to grab a second.
The Senegalese wideman latched onto a loose ball in the United penalty area and opted to take a touch as he looked certain to double Liverpool’s lead. This was seemingly a mistake, as he allowed Harry Maguire to get back and produce a last-ditch challenge.
Despite Mane’s wastefulness, Liverpool continued to press their opponents and had the ball in the back of the net a second time through Roberto Firmino in the 25th minute.
The Brazilian picked up the ball inside the United penalty area and proceeded to curl it into the top corner of the net after the Reds pressed high and won it back. Firmino pealed off to celebrate however a VAR review harshly ruled van Dijk to have fouled De Gea in the build-up and the goal was chalked off. An opinion that was echoed by United legends Gary Neville and Roy Keane who stated that the goal should have stood.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Firmino’s disallowed goal was not the only one to be chalked off on the night, as 10 minutes later Gini Wijnaldum had the ball in the back of the net only to see his tidy finish ruled out for offside.
Unlike in Firmino’s instance where the VAR decision was rather soft, Liverpool’s second disallowed effort was rather clear with the Dutchman leaning offside when Oxlade-Chamberlain played the pass.
Despite being dominated by the home side, United did show that they were still dangerous in attack and should have pulled level when Anthony Martial dinked a ball over the Red defence for Aaron Wan-Bissaka to run onto. The young right-back cushioned the ball back across Alisson’s goal for Andreas Pereira who, with the goal at his mercy, was unable to direct the cross goalwards.
United’s effort only seemed to spur on the visitors who managed to pen Liverpool back towards the end of the half.
With this being said, the Reds remained dangerous on the counter-attack and could have seen themselves end the half with a flurry as Mane was released in behind by Mohamed Salah. With the ball slightly behind him, the number 10 took a touch before driving a low shot towards De Gea who produced a signature save with his legs to ensure United went into the break only one-nil down.
Liverpool started the second half quickly and again should have had a second as Salah fluffed his lines with the goal gaping.
Andrew Robertson bombed down the left-wing in typical fashion and produced a low cross into the area. The ball bypassed the United defence and fell for Salah who failed to get a decent connection which no doubt would have resulted in a goal. As a result, the ball trickled inches wide of the post and the Kop had to wait for a second.
Minutes later the Kop again had to witness the Reds come agonisingly close as Jordan Henderson latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the area only to see his effort crash off the post.
Despite the missed opportunities, Anfield roared as the Reds continued to hassle and harry the United backline in search of their second goal.
With this being said, as was seen in the first half, United showed they were still dangerous themselves as some brilliant play between Martial and Pereira saw the Frenchman released in behind the Reds’ defence. Fortunately for Liverpool, Martial opted for power over placement and, as a result, ballooned the ball over the bar and it remained 1-0.
United rode Liverpool’s early storm and began to put some extended pressure on the home side. However, some quick footwork by Wjianldum released Liverpool for a classic counter-attack that culminated in another wasted opportunity as Mane, who had Salah and Firmino in support, burst into the box and saw his effort yet again roll inches wide of De Gea’s far post.
Following the fast start to the half and the flurry of early chances, the game calmed down as chances became harder to come by with both sides beginning to tire.
Despite a significant number of opportunities, the game remained 1-0 until the 92nd minute when Alisson looked long and set Salah away.
Liverpool now go 16 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, with Klopp’s men next in action on January 23rd when they head to Molineux to face Wolves.