Scene of the game: Alisson Becker saw Mohamed Salah prowling forward and slammed the ball with his hand. The striker took the tee shot, sprinted on half the pitch with the ball on his foot and scored to make it 2-0 for Liverpool. Alisson couldn’t hold on and sprinted all the way down the field to kiss Salah. Both had been unstoppable in their sprints – just as Liverpool FC currently do in the league.
Run Boy Run: “I saw him run,” Jurgen Klopp said of Alisson: “I think if you put a goal in front, it makes sense.” But he praised the whole team. “The boys show so much passion, the biggest heart I’ve ever seen. It makes us successful.
Result: Leaders Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 (1-0) and extended their lead over Manchester City to 16 points. Read the match report here.
Storm collapse: The worst news of the day for United was announced by coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the game. The best striker Marcus Rashford will be absent from his squad for weeks and will probably not be able to play again until February. The striker injured his back in the FA Cup against Wolverhampton a few days ago. A look at the statistics shows how serious the loss is: Rashford has scored 14 goals in 22 games this season. When United played 1-1 against Liverpool in the first leg, Rashford took the lead – this time missing the lucky charm.
Pressed: United alluded to an early pressing against Liverpool’s build-up, with Anthony Martial chasing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez into the Reds’ penalty area for a short time. However, United’s tactics were visibly frustrated because not all sides of the team were exerting enough pressure. In addition, given the style of play they play on a daily basis, Liverpool defenders can handle the pressing against their own accumulation game pretty well.
The first part Opportunity-Wuchers: The Reds were the top team and came to the lead after a corner kick: Trent Alexander-Arnold flanked Virgil van Dijk and he hit his head to make it 1-0 (14th). After that Liverpool showed their strength. In particular, the wing play on Sadio Mané and Andrew Robertson, who apparently also understand each other blindly, worked beautifully. Liverpool scored twice to make it 2-0. At first, Roberto Firmino’s goal was not recognized due to a previous foul on Gea’s goalkeeper, then an offside position prevented Georginio Wijnaldum’s strike after a superb combination. On the other side, Andreas Pereira narrowly missed the equaliser just before the break.
Superman’s weakness: Of course, Liverpool had entered the game as favourites. But one statistic had given Manchester United hope: of their last 11 league games against Liverpool, they had lost only one. Sports analyst Opta even called United a “kryptonite” from Liverpool. This season, however, United can’t weaken the super team either, as the second half shows.
The second part Chance-Wuchers: After the restart, the game became furious. Liverpool could have come away with two or three goals. First Mohamed Salah shot himself, then Gea’s goalkeeper deflected a Jordan Henderson shot over the post. United, without Marcus Rashford in the storm, were not consistent enough to punish the lack of chances. Anthony Martial and Andreas Pereira gave their chances. Even when United got about 85 percent possession of the ball in the final five minutes, the shot failed to equalise. In the last minute Alisson hit the ball to Salah, the rest is known.
Serial shooters: Missed opportunities come and go – with his goals against United Liverpool have now scored in all 22 league games of the season. The last time Arsenal managed to do so was in the 2001/2002 season, when the Londoners became champions.
On the Master Trail: Liverpool are now 16 points ahead of Manchester City’s pursuit and are on track to become Champions of England again after 30 years. The Reds have won 21 of 22 games and one game less than City. In other words, it is very unlikely that they will give the title out of control. Liverpool’s Championship would not be a surprise, but nothing else would be a sensation.