Sheffield United 0-1 Liverpool
Goals: Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.4m)
Bonus Points: Joel Matip (£5.5m) x 3, Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) x 2, Wijnaldum x 1
Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) is still searching for his first away goal of the Premier League season as Liverpool were frustrated by a determined Sheffield United side on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds maintained their 100% winning start to the campaign, courtesy of a Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.4m) goal but they really owed their win to Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson (£4.5m).
He had shaped to make a routine stop from Wijnaldum’s shot but somehow the ball squirmed underneath him and across the line – a cruel way for Sheffield United to lose a game they probably deserved something from.
Sadio Mané (£11.6m) frustrated his 21.4% ownership with two golden opportunities in the first
The first saw the Senegalese international put clean through on goal with just Henderson to beat, but he fluffed his lines and sliced his shot over the crossbar.
The next chance saw some rare insightful penetration and drive from Liverpool’s frontline, as Roberto Firmino (£9.6m) selflessly laid off a perfectly weighted pass – but Mané’s shot cannoned back off the post.
After Henderson’s blunder, he made up for things by producing an excellent stop to deny Salah who was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and arguably should have scored.
As the debate over which Liverpool attacking to own continues to drag on for Fantasy managers, Saturday’s performance was a timely reminder that both Salah and Mané are liable to performances that are lacking a clinical cutting edge.
For those managers who had captained Salah, (nobody was issued with more armbands than Gameweek 7 than him), this was a disappointing return from the Egyptian who has now scored just one goal in his last four Premier League fixtures.
Furthermore, he remains goalless away from home, all but two of his seven attacking returns this season taking place at Anfield.
Mané has previously looked more reliable on the road, with 21 points scored across trips to Southampton and Burnley. However, he is without an attacking return away from home since that Gameweek 4 goal at Turf Moor.
Of course, we have to give credit to Sheffield United who certainly made life very hard work for Liverpool. The Reds were unable to fashion too many clearcut chances in the opening period as they struggled to get to grips with Chris Wilder’s 3-5-2 system.
Klopp’s side emerged for the second half with some more enthusiasm and, temporarily, with an altered tactical system. Fabinho (£5.5m) dropped back to form a defensive trio with Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) and Joel Matip (£5.5m), while Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m) and Andy Robertson (£6.9m) moved into extremely attacking positions on alternative wings for a short spell, before reverting to their natural flanks.
Yet despite Klopp’s evident intentions to attack the Blades through the wide areas, it was the unlikely hero in Wijnaldum who struck a shot that the Blades’ keeper Henderson ultimately should have saved.
For owners of Liverpool’s uncharacteristically inconsistent defence, this was an important result for managers who have retained the faith in their assets. Despite becoming recognised as clean-sheet powerhouses in the 2018/19 season, so far in the current Premier League campaign, Klopp’s side
However, owners of the still-popular Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, this was an important game in keeping their defensive returns ticking over, although it was the centre-backs who emerged with the bonus points.
As mentioned, it was a largely frustrating afternoon for the Reds who were certainly not at their best but huge credit must go to Sheffield United for their fearless performance that did not deserve defeat.
The Blades could have been understandably overwhelmed by the visit of the reigning champions of Europe, yet Wilder’s side refused to bow to the pressure that Jurgen Klopp’s side attempted to conjure up.
Mostly focussed down Alexander-Arnold’s flank, the attacking duo of Callum Robinson (£5.3) and Oli McBurnie (£5.9) tested Liverpool’s
John Lundstram (£4.4m), the club’s highest points scorer in 2019/20, came close after a terrific mazy run from John Fleck (£4.8m), but Wilder’s side were unable to score despite the number of promising opportunities they created throughout the match.
For Wilder, despite the result, this was a performance that epitomised the project he is attempting to build at the club in their pursuit of Premier League survival.
His side battled with unerring confidence to frustrate Liverpool, and managers considering investing in the likes of Lundstram or budget defenders such as John Egan (£4.5m) and Chris Basham (£4.5m) would be pleased to see such a defensively rigid performance from the Blades.
Finally, there were some concerns that Jordan Henderson (£5.4m) suffered an injury in the game as he was replaced by Divock Origi (£5.3m) in the 64th minute.
Klopp confirmed after the match that the substitution was purely a tactical one to change the shape of the attack. With Firmino retaining the centre-forward role, he pulled Salah into a central number 10 position with Origi and Mané manning the flanks.
“No, it was an offensive change. We had the opportunity – either Hendo or Gini, both worked hard, for both it was not an easy game today. Obviously, we made the right decision, Gini stayed on the pitch and scored! We wanted to change our approach, so we could have then Bobby finally between the lines but still an option in behind with Mo. We needed to defend the wings properly because they are there constantly, that’s why we needed first Sadio and then Milly on that [right] wing. Div made a proper impact when he came on, it was really helpful that we could pass the ball there [for] the one-on-one situations and I think he crossed the ball before the goal as well. So, that was the reason.” – Jurgen Klopp
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Henderson; O’Connell, Egan, Basham, Stevens, Baldock, Lundstram; Norwood (Clarke 77’) Fleck, Robinson (Mousset 60’); McBurnie.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson (Origi 64’); Mane (Oxlade-Chamberlain 90+4’), Salah, Firmino (Milner 87’)
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