Defences on top as unwanted stat sees Liverpool held by leaders Man Utd

Date published: Sunday 17th January 2021 6:26 - Rob McCarthy

Paul Pogba TEAMtalk

Liverpool missed the chance to usurp rivals Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table after the two sides played out a goalless draw at Anfield on Sunday.

A fairly lifeless encounter sparked into life with 15 minutes to go when both Alisson and David de Gea both produced some fine saves.

The draw meant United remained top, two points clear of Leicester and three ahead of the reigning champions – who failed to score for the third game in a row and have not won in four.

Liverpool’s Joel Matip was not fit enough to return to the squad for the visit of arch United. So captain Jordan Henderson was again asked to play as a makeshift centre-back.

It meant there was only one change from the team that lost at Southampton. Xherdan Shaqiri preferred to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought Scott McTominay and Fred into his midfield. The duo replaced Nemanja Matic and striker Edinson Cavani.

Victor Lindelof replaced Eric Bailly as the third change from the midweek win over Burnley that moved United top.

Anthony Martial was passed fit after a hamstring complaint and was paired with Marcus Rashford up front.

The home side started with the greater intensity, with Andrew Robertson blazing over the bar before Roberto Firmino also shot wide.

United looked a threat on the break, but Liverpool were bossing midfield without creating any real openings.

United came close to taking an undeserved lead in the 35th minute when Luke Shaw was chopped down 25 yards out. But Bruno Fernandes curled the resulting free-kick a yard wide.

Firmino fluffs his lines

Firmino had another shooting chance on the edge of the box moments later. But after a a break forward from Salah, the Brazilian shot tamely at De Gea.

A slightly disappointing opening period ended goalless, although United ended it with more of a foothold in the game.

As expected, the home side flew out of the traps again at the start of the second half. However, the game soon became end-to-end affair, with both sides looking to use their pace on the counter.

Solskjaer turned to Cavani off the bench on the hour mark, with Martial making way. But Liverpool continued to press, with Salah seeing a shot deflected wide.

United occasionally gave a hint of their threat and had their first shot on target with 25 minutes to go when Fernandes drilled an effort straight at Alisson.

The Red Devils almost broke the deadlock with the best move of the match in the 75th imute when Rashford played in Shaw down the left and his cut-back found Fernandes eight yards out before Alisson saved superbly with his legs.

De Gea was then forced into a great stop of his own minutes later when Thiago turned in midfield and unleashed a fierce strike from 25 yards.

Pogba then had a great chance to win it from close range after good work by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. However, his effort was denied by another excellent stop from the outstanding Alisson.

Despite plenty of endeavour, neither side could force a winner in the end and the game finished goalless.

 

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