Roberto Firmino scored twice as Liverpool boosted their top four hopes with a vital 4-2 victory in a rearranged clash at Manchester United that was once again overshadowed by pre-match supporter protests.
The Red Devils, who were playing their second home game in three days as a result of the original postponement of this fixture, took the lead on 10 minutes when Nat Phillips diverted Bruno Fernandes’ outside of the foot effort past Alisson.
Liverpool saw a penalty award overturned following the intervention of VAR before Phillips made amends when his cross-shot was brilliantly flicked home by Diogo Jota. The visitors then stole in front on the stroke of half time when Firmino powered a header in at the far post from a sumptuous Trent Alexander Arnold delivery.
The Brazilian helped himself to another just two minutes after the restart when Dean Henderson fumbled Alexander Arnold’s shot straight into his path. Jota rattled the post as Jurgen Klopp’s men threatened to run riot before Marcus Rashford ensured it would be a nervy finale when he squeezed a shot beyond Alisson with 22 minutes to play.
As United poured forward chasing an equaliser, Mohamed Salah raced away on the counter attack to put the result beyond doubt in the dying minutes of the game with his 30th goal of the season.
The result means Liverpool move up to fifth spot in the table, four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with a game in hand. United stay second but miss the chance to confirm the runner-up berth with two matches to go.
Liverpool will now visit West Brom on Sunday with renewed belief while United host Fulham next Tuesday.
Jota equalises for Liverpool
Image credit: Getty Images
Liverpool shine to open up top four opportunity amidst more fan unrest outside the ground. The pre-match focus was once again on the supporter protests surrounding Old Trafford, but this time both clubs and the authorities were better prepared and ensured the game was able to kick off as expected. The anti-Glazer messages will no doubt continue but it was good to be able to concentrate on the football.
Liverpool paid tribute to nine-year-old fan, Jordan Banks by wearing grey t-shirts sporting his name in the warm-up, after he was tragically killed when he was struck by lightning earlier in the week. They followed it up with a performance that would have no doubt delighted him.
The Merseysiders remain very much in the top-four hunt and now face West Brom and Burnley away before finishing at home to Crystal Palace. Their main rivals, Chelsea and Leicester have two to play and must face each other, so there is certainly an opportunity for Liverpool if they can get their own lines right. Klopp’s men have endured a miserable time trying to defend their first title in 30 years, but if they can somehow end the season with a Champions League berth, it will surely feel like a triumph given the state they have been in during the first part of 2021.
United will point to the fixture congestion that has seen them play twice in three days but most of this team were rested against Leicester City and in truth, they seemed to lack the same desire and urgency of the away side. With Harry Maguire side-lined the defence looks worryingly porous and while they should still finish second, they will be desperate to have him back in the team for the Europa League final.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Trent Alexander Arnold (Liverpool). Robert Firmino scored twice and led the line brilliantly but it was Liverpool’s playmaker at right back that stole the show. The defender was solid throughout and contributed massively going forward with a clutch of assists. Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet but is hitting form at just the right time for his club – and perhaps his international manager…
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 6, Alexander-Arnold 8, Phillips 7, R Williams 7, Robertson 7, Thiago 7, Fabinho 7, Wijnaldum 7, Salah 7, Jota 8, Firmino 8. Subs: Mane 6, Jones 6, N Williams n/a.
10’ – GOAL! – Man United 1-0 Liverpool. United have a gift! Wan Bissaka overlaps and feeds Fernandes with a cut back. His outside of the foot shot lacks real venom but Phillips gets in the way and diverts it into the other corner.
26’ – LIVERPOOL PENALTY AWARD OVERTURNED! United make a hash of clearing a corner. Bailly gets the ball first but follows through in a tackle on Phillips. It’s rash and the referee points to the spot. VAR checks and asks the official to consult the pitch-side monitor. He does and decides it isn’t a spot kick.
34’ – GOAL! – Man United 1-1 Liverpool. Jota flicks home Phillips’ cross-shot after United once again failed to deal with a Liverpool corner.
45+3’ – GOAL! – Man United 1-2 Liverpool. The visitors lead! Firmino makes a late run to the far post and plants a from header into the net from Alexander Arnold’s superb set piece delivery.
47’ – GOAL! – Man United 1-3 Liverpool. Firmino at the double. The Brazilian taps home the rebound after Alexander Arnold’s shot was fumbled by Henderson.
59’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! It should be four! Liverpool rip United apart again. Jota is set clear on Henderson by Firmino but sees his thumping shot come back off the keeper’s right-hand post.
68’ – GOAL! – Man United 2-3 Liverpool. United are back in it! Rashford races on to a through pass and squeezes a shot beyond Alisson and into the far corner.
70’ – MAN UNITED CHANCE! United have come to life and that visiting defence is creaking. It’s pinball in that area but Phillips gets back on the line to keep out Greenwood’s close-range shot!
90’ – GOAL! – Man United 2-4 Liverpool. It’s all over! Salah races clear and coolly slots beyond Henderson to clinch the points for the visitors.
Fernandes has been directly involved in 44 goals in 50 Premier League appearances for Man Utd (26 goals, 18 assists); only Eric Cantona (46) and Robin van Persie (45) had a hand in more in their first 50 appearances in the competition for the club.
Only Newcastle (29) and West Bromwich Albion (34) have conceded more home goals in the Premier League this season than Manchester United.
Firmino has scored 17 headed goals in the Premier League for Liverpool; only Robbie Fowler (21) has netted more for the Reds in the competition. The Brazilian scored his first goals in 16 appearances in all competitions since away v Tottenham in January, ending the longest scoreless run of his Liverpool career.
Rashford scored his 50th goal at Old Trafford for Manchester United in all competitions, including five in his last five against Liverpool at the ground.
Salah is only the second player in Liverpool’s history to score away to United in two different games in a season, after Harry Chambers in 1920-21.