LIVERPOOL came through a high-octane tussle with old rivals Manchester United to win 2-0 at Anfield and move 16 points clear at the top of the table on Sunday.
The win sparked a chorus of “we are going to win the league” from their now-expectant fans.
Juergen Klopp’s side, chasing their maiden title in the English Premier League (EPL) era and first in the top flight in 30 years, took a 14th-minute lead.
After the lead from a Virgil van Dijk header, they however had to wait until stoppage time to put the game to bed through Mohamed Salah.
With a game in hand on second-placed Manchester City, Liverpool’s grip on the title race tightened.
But while Klopp was not about to echo the euphoric sentiments of the club’s jubilant fans, he was upbeat about his team’s display.
“It’s a big relief, I was really happy with 85 to 90 per cent of the game. We were brilliant. We dominated the game, especially in the first half. The energy they put on the pitch was incredible,” said the German, whose side have dropped just two points in 22 games.
For Manchester United, who battled hard but were outclassed in all departments, it was another reminder.
It reminded them of just how much work is ahead of them if they are to get back to being in contention for titles.
The loss meant Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffered another blow to his hopes of qualifying for the 2020/2021 UEFA Champions League.
This came after the news that his top scorer Marcus Rashford was not only out for the trip to Anfield but could face several weeks on the sidelines with a back injury.
Manchester United are in fifth place in the league, five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
But while no-one could question the commitment of Solskjaer’s players, it is clear he needs some immediate transfer reinforcements.
“The players gave us everything. Today we hung on a bit at the start of the second half, but the last 25 to 30 minutes we pressed them and pushed them back.
“I’m disappointed with conceding from a corner kick and with the last kick —- but very many positives,” he said.
After a promising start from the visitors, Van Dijk put Liverpool ahead with a firm header after he was poorly marked by Mancheste United.
They allowed him to rise and nod in a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner kick.
Roberto Firmino thought he had scored a second, but a VAR review ruled that Van Dijk had fouled Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea before the ball fell to the Brazilian.
Liverpool had the ball in the net again when Georginio Wijnaldum slotted home after a clever defence-splitting pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the Dutchman was ruled narrowly offside.
Manchester United’s attacking forages were rare but they caused some anxiety for Klopp.
One of such was when Andreas Pereira slid in but could not make contact with a low ball across the face of the goal from Aaron Wan Bissaka.
Yet after the break, Liverpool looked determined to put the outcome beyond doubt.
Salah missed a glorious chance from close range just after the interval during an intense period of pressure from the home side, in which Jordan Henderson also hit the post.
Manchester United survived that blitz and clawed their way back into the game and could even have snatched an equaliser but Anthony Martial blasted high and wide in the 59th minute.
Solskjaer’s side applied some late pressure but were caught on the counter-attack in the final moments.
That was when, with all Manchester United players forward, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker launched a long ball for Salah who raced clear before slotting home to settle Anfield’s nerves.
“It’s special. We’re enjoying our football. You have to stay hungry and keep wanting more,” said Henderson, who looks well set to be raising another piece of silverware at the end of this campaign after lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy last season.
– Jan. 20, 2020 @ 08:05 GMT |