Defending champions Liverpool returned to winning ways in the Premier League with a hard-fought comeback victory over struggling Sheffield United at Anfield.
Deputising at centre-back for the injured Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool midfielder Fabinho conceded a 13th-minute penalty for a foul on Oliver McBurnie on the edge of the box, allowing Sander Berge to slot in following a video assistant referee review.
Despite Liverpool facing spirited opposition, Roberto Firmino converted from Sadio Mane’s saved shot four minutes before half-time and Diogo Jota’s header completed the turnaround midway through the second half.
After two league games without victory, including their astonishing 7-2 defeat by Aston Villa, Jurgen Klopp’s side moved level on points at the top of the table with Merseyside rivals Everton, who face Southampton on Sunday at 14:00 GMT.
Jota’s decisive goal arrived two minutes after Mohamed Salah’s fine finish from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was ruled out by VAR for offside, while Salah was denied by the woodwork late on.
John Egan’s sliding intervention had prevented Salah from putting Liverpool ahead inside the first minute, while Alexander-Arnold’s ambitious free-kick from the halfway line forced Aaron Ramsdale to tip over as the Blades endured early pressure.
United remain winless and with a single point after six games, but they offered manager Chris Wilder plenty of encouragement and were denied a 2-0 lead when returning Liverpool keeper Alisson pushed away Ben Osborn’s excellent volley.
Reds find a way despite Van Dijk’s absence
The potentially season-ending knee injury suffered by Van Dijk in the Merseyside derby is a seismic blow for Liverpool as they aim to defend their crown this season, but Klopp will have taken much comfort from Fabinho’s near-faultless performance in the 1-0 midweek victory over Ajax in the Champions League.
Lining up without their Dutch centre-back for the first time in 75 league games, Fabinho once again partnered Joe Gomez in defence, although the Brazil international was at fault as he lunged in to his tackle on McBurnie.
Forced to play catch-up despite their early chances, the Reds wrestled parity through Firmino’s instinctive finish and the lively Salah almost completed a rapid turnaround before the break when he ran the ball too close to Ramsdale.
Despite the return of Alisson, out since September with injury, there were moments of uncertainty at the back as Liverpool allowed United 13 shots at goal - but their own quality in attack ultimately told.
Jota, quiet in front of goal for much of the contest, claimed the points with his first shot of the match, diverting Mane’s looped cross beyond Ramsdale’s reach, to extend Liverpool’s impressive unbeaten home record to 62 league games.
Blades show there’s more to come
Wilder said he had seen sufficient signs of improvement after United’s winless start to the season continued with a first point against bottom-placed Fulham last weekend.
Despite this admirable and energetic display at Anfield, United must begin to put points on the board soon.
The Blades’ sluggish start was fast developing into a concerning drop in form, but on Saturday they showed the determination which saw them flirt with European qualification last season.
Enda Stevens’ first-half block from Jordan Henderson’s shot epitomised United’s defensive spirit. However, it is in attack where they have lacked - with Berge’s penalty their third goal in six games this season.
Club-record signing Rhian Brewster lined up against former side Liverpool for his first Premier League start since a £23.5m move in October, but the 20-year-old struggled to impose himself before his exit after 54 minutes.
United still proved a real nuisance and had two first-half penalty appeals turned down after the ball struck Andrew Robertson’s hand in the penalty area and McBurnie went down following an aerial challenge.
They pressed for an equaliser until the end, but substitute Oliver Burke was unable to control his late attempt.
Liverpool’s Anfield comebacks - the stats
- Liverpool have won their past four Premier League games against Sheffield United by an aggregate score of 9-1.
- They have won 28 of their past 29 league games at Anfield.
- They are also unbeaten in their last 13 home league games when conceding the first goal - winning each of the past nine.
- Sheffield United’s nine-game winless run in the Premier League is the longest run of any current side in the competition.
- Liverpool have conceded 14 goals in their first six Premier League games this season - a tally it took them 15 games to reach in 2019-20.
- Diogo Jota is the first player to score in each of his first two Premier League home games for Liverpool since Sadio Mane in September 2016.
- Mane has been directly involved in five goals - scoring four - in his past four league games
Liverpool host FC Midtjylland in their second Champions League group match on Tuesday (20:00 GMT) before welcoming West Ham to Anfield in the Premier League game next Saturday (17:30).
Sheffield United face Manchester City at Bramall Lane next Saturday (12:30), then travel to Chelsea the following Saturday (17:30).
- 20JotaSubstituted forMilnerat 83′minutes
- 9FirminoSubstituted forMinaminoat 83′minutes
- 76N Williams
- 3StevensBooked at 66mins
- 8BergeBooked at 86mins
- 7LundstramBooked at 3minsSubstituted forMcGoldrickat 76′minutes
- 24BrewsterSubstituted forBurkeat 54′minutes
- Mike Dean
Match ends, Liverpool 2, Sheffield United 1.
Second Half ends, Liverpool 2, Sheffield United 1.
Attempt missed. Oliver Burke (Sheffield United) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Oliver McBurnie with a headed pass.
James Milner (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by George Baldock (Sheffield United).
Joseph Gomez (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Oliver Burke (Sheffield United).
Attempt blocked. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Mohamed Salah.
Attempt missed. Sadio Mané (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Andrew Robertson.
Attempt blocked. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.
Sander Berge (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Sander Berge (Sheffield United).
Attempt missed. Enda Stevens (Sheffield United) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by David McGoldrick.
Joseph Gomez (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Chris Basham (Sheffield United).
Substitution, Liverpool. Takumi Minamino replaces Roberto Firmino.
Substitution, Liverpool. James Milner replaces Diogo Jota.
Attempt missed. Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Sander Berge.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) hits the right post with a left footed shot from the centre of the box. Assisted by Georginio Wijnaldum.