Player ratings: Sheffield United 0-1 Liverpool

Gini-and-Bobby-celebrate
The red machine rolls on then and believe it or not, that’s our first win at Bramall lane in the Premier league era. It wasn’t without a large slice of good fortune however, that we got over the line. Let’s see how our league leaders scored.

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Adrian (7) - Another steady enough display from our deputy keeper, as Alisson’s return grows near. One corner he got wrong aside, his handling was steady and he was forced into making a smart save although the ball was probably hitting the post. My only real criticism is that twice in injury time, he immediately conceded possession from a goal kick. Once he kicked it straight out of play, the second straight to a Sheffield United player and it increased the pressure in a time he should have eased it. All in all though, he can be happy with his display and clean sheet.

TAA (6) - Not Trent’s finest game by a long shot. Couldn’t get his delivery right and was caught out of position defensively on a couple of occasions. Showed some good recovery pace however. Set pieces not up to their usual standard but never hid and put a shift in.

Matip (8.5) - I’m going for Matip as my man of the match. He was rock solid defensively but I was really impressed with his work bringing the ball out from defence. He made a number of penetrating forward passes straight through midfield. His through balls are excellent and when the pass wasn’t on, he dribbled out from the back expertly and put us on the front foot time and again. Matip has evolved into an absolutely brilliant player in the last twelve months.

Van Dijk (7.5) - Remember we used to struggle with crosses into our box? Remember we used to bemoan our lack of defensive leadership? Seems like so long ago now and did again yesterday as Virgil met cross after cross and dealt with pretty much every high ball Sheffield United could throw at us. Spent the rest of his time barking orders at everyone around him and he’ll be pleased to have seen out the clean sheet.

Robertson (7) - Not Robbo’s finest game from an attacking point of view as he over hit a number of his forward passes and didn’t get as many crossing opportunities as he normally does. Showed what a good defender he is though and made a couple of brilliant blocks, one in particular that undoubtedly saved us from conceding where he covered lots of ground to fling himself in front of the shot from Fleck, who caused us problems all afternoon.

Fabinho (8) - Another dominant display from Fabinho and he played a huge part in yesterday’s clean sheet. Fabinho reads danger brilliantly, he has a really defensive mind. Spots the threats and snuffs them out before they get started and he did it again and again yesterday. He can pass as well though and is a real physical presence in the centre of the park.

Henderson (6) - Struggled to influence the game in a footballing sense but was hugely involved in the physical battle in the middle of the park and when you’re playing away at teams like Sheffield United, it’s imperative you have players capable of the physical fight and Hendo is more than up to the task. Looked to pick up a sore one either side of half-time however and was replaced around the hour mark.

Wijnaldum (7) - Scored a point extra for the goal but otherwise was similar to Hendo in as much as he was involved in a midfield scrap as opposed to any kind of real footballing influence. Showed his versatility by joining Fabinho in a double pivot after the substitution led to a change of formation.

Salah (5.5) - Stunk the place out last week against Chelsea and was much the same yesterday. Ran into trouble time and again, passing was wayward throughout and missed a sitter when clean through on goal. Should have had taken it with his right instead of trying to beat the keeper at his near post with his left.. Two games without a goal now though, he won’t be enjoying that and he’d probably be a good bet to get on the score sheet in our next match.

Firmino (6) - Practically anonymous in the first half but improved second, especially once we changed formation. Worked hard but was drawn into a congested, midfield dogfight which minimised his creative influence on the game. Started the season like a train but has gone off the boil a bit in recent weeks, albeit he did score against Chelsea.

Mane (5) - Missed two gilt edged chances including one absolute sitter from just a few yards out. Only managed to hit the post however and probably sent a thank you card to their goalie after the game, for getting him out of jail with his howler. When up against a team whose record is almost perfect the way Man City’s is, we can’t afford our forwards to be missing chances like that.

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Subs:

Origi (7.5) - Made a huge difference when he came on with his skill and direct running at their fullback. Showed some lovely footwork in their box and laid on a decent chance for Salah who promptly connected with nothing but fresh air. Origi frequently makes a big impact off the bench but often struggles when he starts games. Possibly in danger of developing something of a super-sub tag.

Milner (N/A) - Wasn’t on long enough to huff and puff so only huffed.

Ox (N/A) - Time wasting sub.

Klopp-watch (7) - I was hoping to see a more fluid performance after a full week of training for the first team but we got the job done once more. I still think when Origi comes on he should play centrally though. I know he made a difference yesterday when he came on but we put so many crosses in yesterday and Sheffield United dealt comfortably with them all day. Origi offers something totally different than our other players in that regard with his height and power, I don’t understand why we don’t try and maximise that. If you want to mix it up, Mane and Salah can swap wings but I feel we only utilise part of Origi’s skill set by playing him out wide.

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Summary:

I mentioned in my last ratings thread that Sheffield United were not to be underestimated and it proved to be the case, as they gave us a real test yesterday. They’re extremely well drilled, Chris Wilder has done an unbelievable job there and two promotions in three seasons with a limited budget is testament to the brilliant work he has done, so while it was far from a vintage display from our players, sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition and fair play to Sheffield United, they gave us our toughest game of the season so far in my opinion.

As for our own display, we created enough clear cut chances between Mane and Salah that we should have won the game more comfortably, although Sheffield United had a number of chances of their own. What I was impressed with however, was the fight and grit in this team. Games like yesterday where the likes of Arsenal came unstuck under Wenger. They didn’t have the heart and stomach for a game like that. Not so with our boys though, who have a real winning mentality now and are full of grit and determination to see the job through. Ultimately the three points are all that matters and this game may well be one we look back on as being vital come the end of the season.

A decent Red Bull Salzburg team visit Anfield midweek then and much like Sheffield United, are not a team to take too lightly. European night at Anfield however, I expect to be too much for them and it needs to be, as it’s imperative we get our Champions League campaign up and running. Still perfect in the league though. Seven wins out of seven and our sixteenth consecutive league victory. That’s the form of Champions. Bring it home boys, walk on.

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