Liverpool beat Sheffield United 2-0 in Chris Wilder’s first game back in charge of the Blades to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal to two points.
Bottom-placed Sheffield United remain four points from safety but will take encouragement from their first performance of Wilder’s second stint as head coach, which saw them frustrate Liverpool for long periods either side of Virgil van Dijk’s goal and before Dominik Szoboszlai added late gloss.
The Dutchman volleyed in his first strike of the season from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner on 37 minutes after his marker Anel Ahmedhodzic tumbled. A VAR check cleared the goal and it set Liverpool on course for victory on a night where they had long spells of possession but struggled to carve out clear-cut openings against a reorganised home side.
It wasn’t until the 94th minute that Szoboszlai eventually added a second, converting after sub Darwin Nunez had won the ball back from Jayden Bogle with a challenge which left the home side complaining but VAR again unmoved.
Sheffield United keeper Wes Foderingham had denied Nunez from a one-on-one and earlier kept out a stinging volley from Mohamed Salah but Liverpool never really got out of second gear with their attacking play
With Sheffield United failing to seriously test Caoimhin Kelleher beyond a dangerous break which led to James McAtee’s shot in the first half, a valuable three points were secured on a night when Liverpool weren’t at their best.
There was a scare for the visitors just before Szoboszlai’s goal when Ibrahima Konate shoved McAtee over in the box but with referee Simon Hooper and VAR not interested, Jurgen Klopp’s men keep pace with Arsenal in the title race.
Afterwards, Wilder was adamant his side should have had a penalty and Liverpool’s second shouldn’t have counted.
“The two-handed push on McAtee? On any part of the pitch, if a player pushes a player with two hands and he goes down off balance, it’s not up to him to stay on his feet. It’s a penalty, simple as that,” he said.
“I was more disappointed with the tackle by [Nunez]. Twenty-five years ago when I was playing people would talk about that being a decent tackle. You take the ball but you take the man. He’s wrapped his legs right round Bogle and it’s resulted in the second goal. I think it’s a foul. I think there’s a foul leading up to that where he jumped into Jack Robinson.
“It’s another poor night by the referee if I’m honest. It’s not rose-tinted glasses, it’s what I’ve seen.”