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Red-hot Liverpool sink Blades to go 13 points clear and make it a year unbeaten

Deadly duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane grabbed the goals at Anfield.

Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
Image: Peter Byrne

LIVERPOOL MADE IT an entire calendar year without a Premier League defeat as the runaway leaders beat Sheffield United 2-0 on Thursday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side moved 13 points clear of second placed Leicester thanks to goals from Egypt forward Mohamed Salah and Senegal winger Sadio Mane at Anfield.

Liverpool’s 19th win in 20 league games this season completed an incredible 12 months for a team at the peak of their powers.

The Reds haven’t lost in 37 league games since a defeat at Manchester City on January 3, 2019 and it looks certain they will win the English title for the first time since 1990.

With a game in hand to further bolster their advantage, it would take an astonishing collapse to deprive Liverpool of their holy grail.

Winners of their last 18 home league games, Liverpool are unbeaten in 51 top-flight matches at Anfield dating back to April 2017.

As if it wasn’t hard enough to beat Liverpool already, they are proving more impregnable than ever lately.

This was their fifth consecutive top-flight clean-sheet — the first time they have managed that since 2007 — and they completed more passes than any team in one match in the Premier League era.

After a golden 2019 saw Liverpool crowned European and Club World champions, the next target is ending Manchester City’s two-year spell as champions after narrowly missing out last season.

Their sights set on domestic bliss, the new year started just as the old one finished, with Liverpool setting standards of excellence that rival anything achieved by City’s breath-taking team.

liverpool-v-sheffield-united-premier-league-anfield VVD wins a header. Source: Peter Byrne

Premier League immortality is within touching distance as Klopp’s men are already over halfway towards an unbeaten league season that would replicate the incredible feat of Arsenal’s 2003-04 Invincibles.

Even the strain of Liverpool’s sixth game in 16 days, which had left Klopp claiming he was down to 13 fit senior outfield players, couldn’t derail the leaders.

Liverpool hadn’t even kicked off when that number dwindled further as Naby Keita suffered a groin injury in the warm-up and was replaced by James Milner.

But Liverpool are far too polished to lose focus and they were in front within four minutes.

- Flushed with success -

Their win at Bramall Lane in September had come thanks to a mistake from United keeper Dean Henderson and once again Liverpool benefitted from a Blades blunder.

When Virgil van Dijk played a long pass towards Andrew Robertson, it should have been easy for George Baldock to deal with.

But Baldock lost his footing and fell over, allowing Robertson to advance and cross low to Salah, who got in front of Jack O’Connell to steer in a clinical close-range finish for his 14th goal of the season.

David McGoldrick tried to drag United back into it with a dipping strike from the edge of the area that Alisson Becker tipped over.

Salah went close to a second when his instinctive half-volley was pushed over by Henderson at full stretch.

Ahead of their first visit to Anfield for 13 year, Chris Wilder’s down-to-earth side took the unusual decision to train alongside the public on Stanley Park in the shadow of the famous stadium.

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liverpool-v-sheffield-united-premier-league-anfield John Egan facing Mane. Source: Peter Byrne

The session was interrupted when a dog decided to use one of the training cones as a toilet.

That unpromising omen proved apt as the visitors’ hopes of a shock result were flushed away.

Salah was a constant menace and he met Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb pass with a first-time drive that Henderson turned away for a corner.

Liverpool’s ability to press any opponent into submission and deliver the knockout blow with their lethal front three has made them virtually unplayable over the last 18 months.

United were the latest victims as Mane wrapped up the points in the 64th minute.

Running onto Robertson’s pass, Mane broke into the area and took Salah’s return pass before firing gleefully into the roof of the net after his initial shot was saved.

Enda Stevens and John Egan were the two other Irish internationals in the Sheffield side alongside McGoldrick.

© – AFP, 2020

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