Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool “deserved” victory at Sheffield United despite needing a “lucky” Georginio Wijnaldum goal to continue their perfect start to the Premier League season at a raucous Bramall Lane.
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)
‘He needs to do better’ – 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.”
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.
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.