Two deflected strikes from substitute Xherdan Shaqiri gave Liverpool a vital win over rivals Manchester United at Anfield. Sadio Mane gave the Reds the lead before Jesse Lingard equalised, but the second-half brace from Shaqiri saw Jürgen Klopp’s side return to the top of the table. Here’s The Anfield Talk’s Lewis (@TizTaz99) with the Talking Points.
Contrasting halves represent past and present of Liverpool’s fortune in fixture…
It was just the most typical first half. Liverpool were sensational in the first 20 minutes or so, giving United no room to breathe and no chance to break out. Mane finished brilliantly to give the hosts a deserved lead, but out of nowhere, Lingard capitalises on a mistake to somehow draw United level.
With all the talk this week about how good Alisson is and whether he is making a claim to be the best goalkeeper in the world, it was so incredibly obvious that if anyone was going to make a mistake, it would be the Brazilian.
At the break it just seemed like it would be one of those days that the Reds have frequently had against the Red Devils in the past, where nothing goes their way and despite being far superior they just can’t claim a win.
However, the second half finally saw a bit of Liverpool luck in the fixture, with Shaqiri’s efforts deflecting of Ashley Young and Eric Bailly to put the Reds 3-1 up. Neither shot would’ve gone in without the deflections, but thankfully, Sunday was simply Liverpool’s day.
Fabinho and Robertson allow for defensive and offensive dominance…
Anyone that was stupid enough to have doubts about Fabinho after a few of his earlier performances have been put well and truly back in their place in recent weeks. The Brazilian made a strong case for man-of-the-match, and picked up exactly where he left off against Bournemouth.
Defensively he was as solid as ever with numerous interceptions and tackles, and was the one who dominated the aerial duels with United’s giants. But there is just as much excellence to Fabinho’s game when he is needed to be a creative outlet, and as we have seen a few times this season, he is capable of a quality chip over the top – a skill he performed to perfection to set up Mane’s goal.
Another key attacking outlet who was crucial in the Reds’ victory was Andy Robertson. His marauding and penetrative runs down the wing caused United’s midfield and defence all sorts of problems, and is was strange why Jose Mourinho and his team did nothing to try and prevent the Scotsman from having so much space. Robertson is the best left-back in the Premier League, no question, and continues to be imperative to Liverpool’s success.
Attack finally fires against United…
Well Mourinho brought his bus with him to Anfield, but come full time it had been blown away and left to operate at a snail’s pace while Liverpool knocked the ball around with ease.
In fairness, Mourinho’s tactics were working in the middle third of the match as Klopp’s players grew frustrated and let long-range efforts fly off in anger. But either side of that period Liverpool’s attack enjoyed both possession and space to work in.
Mane scored one and set-up another with a direct and skilful run, while Roberto Firmino looks to have finally rediscovered his form. The pair dropped off continuously into pockets of space from which they could cause havoc. Mohamed Salah may have looked quiet, but his battles against United centre-backs were always going to be at a sacrifice in order to give his teammates the space to work in.
Shaqiri was the match winner though, and once again highlighted Klopp’s improvement at making subs, and also improvement in Liverpool’s strength in depth and options off the bench. In recent years the Reds have been unable to get past United’s bus and David De Gea, but on Sunday it was mission accomplished.
‘One game at a time’ mentality must be maintained…
Klopp was sure to make the point in his post-match interview when asked about Liverpool’s title challenge that his side are taking things one match at a time, and that is exactly the way things need to continue to be.
The Reds are still in three competitions this season, and while the allure of Monday’s Champions League draw or the visit to the Etihad in January might be thought of, the next game must be the main focus. It feels like every week at the moment contains two or three huge games for Klopp’s team, but that’s because every match is so important no matter what competition.
The wins over Burnley, Bournemouth, Napoli and now United have all given Liverpool a huge three points, and the tough games only keep coming as we head into the bulk of the festive period. No matter who is starting the matches for Liverpool, they all know what’s required.