Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Liverpool 3-1 Sheffield United: Talking points as persistence takes Reds back to Premier League summit

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Having spent around 24 hours staring at the back of Arsenal, Liverpool have retaken the top spot in the Premier League standings by beating Sheffield United 3-1 on Thursday evening at Anfield.

Darwin Nunez applied pressure on Sheffield goalkeeper Ivo Grbic to break the deadlock in the 17th minute, but the stadium went silent 13 minutes into the second half as Conor Bradley caused an unfortunate deflection to put the ball in his own team’s net. A stunner from Alexis Mac Allister restored Liverpool’s lead in the 76th, and in the 90th, Cody Gakpo reacted very well to a pin-point cross from Andy Robertson to set the final score.

The game

Despite the fact that Liverpool are firmly in the title race and the Blades sit at the bottom of the table, the three points took a harder route into the home side’s pockets than expected. With 84% of possession of the ball, there can be no question about Liverpool dominating the contest, and the fact that they took a total of 29 shots compared to Sheffield’s five comes as no surprise. But with that in mind, Jurgen Klopp’s team probably should’ve wrapped the victory in a much more comfortable manner.

Liverpool had no problems with grabbing possession and pushing the visitors far back for most of the game, but they frequently appeared to lack the creativity needed to break through the five-man back line which stood infront of Grbic. Darwin’s opener, a result of sheer perseverance from the Uruguay international, in a large way epitomizes the way they won this game.

Liverpool never really created what most people consider a big chance, but rather resorted to testing Grbic’s confidence with efforts from outside the box. But being always deep in the opposition half helped them in knocking on the door with sufficient frequency to eventually wear the Sheffield defence down and get the job done.

Blades doomed as title race remains fierce

Liverpool are now back at the top with 70 points racked up, two more than Arsenal and three more than Manchester City. With eight matches left for each of the three to play, and no direct battles between them to potentially tip the balance one way or another, the Merseysiders are in control of the race for the title, but they will have to stay on their toes probably down to the final round on May 19th. One mistake, and their hopes could go tumbling down with neither Arsenal nor City showing any signs of relenting.

Meanwhile, it’s very hard to imagine Sheffield United playing in the Premier League next season. Chris Wilder returned to lead the team in early December following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom and while he was welcomed back to Bramall Lane with open arms, it seems it was already too late by then to change the Blades’ fortunes.

As things stand, Sheffield United have a mountain to climb to stay up, looking at a 10-point gap that needs overcoming. No team has ever been this deep and survived, and it very likely won’t be the case now either.

The three teams that earned promotion to the English top flight last summer currently occupy the bottom three spots, which obviously makes them prime candidates to return promptly to the Championship, though 18th-place Luton are still in with a shot of survival, being only three points behind Nottingham Forest.

Tough week ahead for Liverpool

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola recently complained about the density of the schedule for his team, but in all honesty, Liverpool don’t have it much better either. Only four days before, the Merseysiders had to come back from a goal down to beat Brighton, and at the end of this week, they’ll face arch-rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.

As the team whose record of 20 league titles is at stake, United boss Erik ten Hag shouldn’t have any problems motivating his players on Sunday, especially with their confidence boosted by the recent FA Cup triumph over Klopp’s team. Another four days later, Liverpool will play against Atalanta at Anfield in the first leg of their encounter in the Europa League, before welcoming Crystal Palace after another three days.

Meanwhile, Sheffield with be hoping to do better when Chelsea come to Bramall Lane at the end of the week, and then again when they travel to face Brentford six days later.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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