Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United
Two second-half goals from Xherdan Shaqiri won the Mersey/Manchester derby and lifted Jurgen Klopp’s Reds back to the top of the league.
This is the Premier League’s biggest derby without question, and the 201st meeting between Liverpool and Manchester United certainly didn’t disappoint. In a pulsating first half Sadio Mane put the hosts in front before Alisson gifted Jesse Lingard an unlikely equaliser. But within ten minutes of coming on to the pitch Swiss star Shaqiri took the game away from the Red Devils with his quick-fire brace.
The pre-match Premier League 2018 odds at us, on the title returning to Anfield, had plummeted to 3.50 and this was a huge game in Klopp’s quest to keep pace with Manchester City. Jose Mourinho’s big call was to drop Paul Pogba to the bench after the Red Devils’ midweek loss to Valencia, but it didn’t pay off.
Highlights of the game
In a frenetic start to the game, Manchester United had the ball in the net on just four minutes. Ashley Young floated a free-kick into the bottom corner, but Romelu Lukaku was in an offside position when he tried to add his touch.
Mo Salah scored a hat-trick last week to fire the Reds to the top, though he hasn’t ever scored a Premier League goal against Manchester United. But he was in the thick of the action in the early stages. Roberto Firmino hit a fine low shot which David De Gea palmed away, and Salah was about to turn the ball in when Victor Lindelof made an excellent challenge. Then the Egyptian robbed Lindelof to launch another attack ending in a Fabinho shot which De Gea tipped away.
Marcus Rashford had a pot shot from distance, straight at Alisson in the Liverpool goal; but the hosts continued to dominate and got their reward on 25 minutes. Firminho chipped a lovely ball forward which Sadio Mane chested down and volleyed past De Gea to send the Anfield crowd wild.
But they were silenced before long when their highly rated keeper gave United an early Christmas present. Lukaku crossed a seemingly harmless ball into Alisson’s hands and he spilt it to allow Jesse Lingard to scoop the ball home. 1-1.
Pick up the Premier League 2018 highlights to see that one, though I seriously doubt Liverpool’s keeper will want to!
That goal took the wind out of Liverpool’s sails and they went in level at the break, and Mourinho tried to keep it that way by bringing Marouane Fellaini on for the second half. World Cup winner Pogba stayed on the bench.
Liverpool came close to restoring their lead on 52 minutes after Firmino forced De Gea into another good save. Naby Keita tried to poke home the rebound but Ashley Young made a last-ditch tackle. And then Fellaini was on hand to block a Virgil Van Dijk drive which was destined for the net.
Klopp brought Xherdan Shaqiri on to try to spark something as United were keeping the hosts at arms length, forcing them to shoot from distance. And the former Stoke City man had an immediate and amazing impact. As Liverpool piled the pressure on De Gea’s goal, a loose clearance landed at Shaqiri’s feet and he fired high into the roof of the net at the United keepers’ near post.
And then, on 81 minutes the super sub added another, finishing off a fast flowing move with a deflected drive. And that was about the best Christmas gift the Liverpool Kop could ever wish for.
Here’s the statistic Manchester United fans love to throw at their Liverpool rivals:
20 league titles to Liverpool’s 18.
But the way these two clubs are heading, that gap will narrow before it widens.
It’s five wins on the trot for Liverpool and just one in five for United and the two teams are separated by a massive 19 points.
This was Liverpool’s first league win against United in nine attempts, and they have now broken their Premier League unbeaten run record, stretching it to 18. Can it get much better for the Reds?
So now that the dust has settled Liverpool is back at the top of the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp takes his team to the Black Country next Friday for a really difficult test against big spending Wolves. The Premier League new boys are playing good attacking football and three wins have lifted them up to seventh.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho takes his Red Devils to South Wales to face another of the newly promoted clubs. Cardiff City were, and still probably are, most pundits’ favourites to go down, but Neil Warnock has them playing with passion and he will be determined to keep in the battle to stay up any way he can. I doubt this game will be pretty!
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