Liverpool extended their perfect start to the Premier League season thanks to Georginio Wijnaldum’s fortunate strike in a 1-0 victory at Sheffield United on Saturday and manager Jurgen Klopp said he was happy to win ugly.
The European champions looked short on invention against the well-organised Blades until Wijnaldum’s shot from the edge of the box 20 minutes from time trickled between the legs of United goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
The win – Liverpool’s 16th consecutive victory in the top flight – moved Klopp’s men eight points clear of champions Manchester City ahead of City’s game against Everton later on Saturday.
Liverpool missed out on winning the Premier League by a single point last season but are now setting a searing pace as they chase their first top-flight title since 1990, with seven victories in as many matches.
“For us it was important to win, we had unbelievably big chances,” Klopp told BT Sport.
“In the first half we had two big chances and in the second one which we scored from.
“These games, they are not all beauties and you have to work hard for the results.
“You have to respect the opponent. We had good moments and it was one of these games you have to win but not think too much about it. One team deserved to win, which was us, but all respect to Sheffield United, they were tough.”
Chances began to come for Liverpool towards the end of the first half as Sadio Mane sliced horribly wide with just Henderson to beat and then hit the post when it seemed easier to score from Roberto Firmino’s pass.
Mane was unfortunate minutes into the second period, though, as he was taken out by John Lundstram as he broke into the box.
Referee Anthony Taylor was unimpressed and it was another example when VAR backed the official’s decision when it should have been overturned.
The hosts had their chances to spring a huge shock as Adrian turned behind a long-range drive from Oliver Norwood before Andy Robertson made a brilliant block to deny John Fleck the opener.
All of Sheffield United’s good work was undone with one mistake when Wijnaldum pounced on a loose ball 20 yards from goal, but his strike should have been easily handled by Henderson, who instead watched on with horror as the ball slipped under his grasp.
The Manchester United loanee made some amends 11 minutes from time when Mohamed Salah broke clean through, but could not beat Henderson with a low finish.
That save could still have salvaged a point had substitute Leon Clarke not blazed over with the goal at his mercy late on.
Instead, Liverpool held on to grind out the sort of win that could finally make them champions come May.
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder was irritated his side did not take advantage of a sub-par Liverpool.
“I am not bothered about pride, I am bothered about the result,” he said.
“Liverpool had an off day and I think we missed an opportunity. In pressurised situations we need to remain composed. We were delighted with the shape but their chances came from our mistakes.”