Liverpool survived a scare to beat Sheffield United 2-1 as Diogo Jota’s winner capped a spirited fightback that lifted the Premier League champions into second place on Saturday (Oct 24).
Jurgen Klopp’s side trailed to Sander Berge’s controversial first half penalty at Anfield.
But Roberto Firmino equalised before the break and Portugal forward Jota completed the escape act with his second goal since signing from Wolves in September.
After losing Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury in last weekend’s Merseyside derby draw at Everton, the Reds have proved they can survive without their influential Dutch centre-back.
A gritty 1-0 Champions League win against Ajax in midweek set the tone and Liverpool again dug deep to earn their first win in three Premier League games.
Van Dijk, who is unlikely to feature again this season, had started 94 consecutive league matches before this weekend.
And while his stand-in Fabinho was responsible for conceding the penalty converted by Berge, Klopp must be largely satisfied with the way his team have coped with such a major injury blow.
Liverpool are level on points with leaders Everton, who have a superior goal difference and play their game in hand at Southampton on Sunday.
Liverpool came out firing and almost went ahead inside the first minute when Sadio Mane flicked the ball past United keeper Aaron Ramsdale before John Egan hacked clear.
Trent Alexander-Arnold tried his luck with an audacious free-kick from the halfway line that Ramsdale had to tip over.
But despite that lively opening it was United who took a shock lead in the 13th minute.
When Fabinho tripped Oli McBurnie right on the edge of the Liverpool area, Mike Dean gave a free-kick but VAR intervened to review the challenge and ruled it had taken place just inside the box.
It was the first Premier League penalty Liverpool had faced at Anfield in over two years and Norway midfielder Berge showed no nerves as he sent Alisson Becker the wrong way for his first goal of the season.
Alisson was back after missing the last four matches with a shoulder injury and Liverpool’s keeper marked his return with an excellent save from Ben Osborn’s volley as United pressed for a second goal.
Klopp had sent out an even more attacking line-up than usual, with Brazilian forward Firmino deployed in midfield behind a front three of Mane, Jota and Mohamed Salah.
It was Firmino who dragged Liverpool level in the 41st minute with his first goal of the season.
Mane met Jordan Henderson’s cross with a powerful header that was parried out by Ramsdale and, with the keeper prone on the turf, Firmino slotted in the rebound from close-range.
Salah should have completed Liverpool’s comeback moments later, but Ramsdale denied the Egypt forward when he surged through on goal.
United were inches away from regaining the lead soon after the interval when Berge headed down to George Baldock, whose deflected effort flashed just wide.
Salah thought he had scored Liverpool’s second with a cool finish from Alexander-Arnold’s pass, but the goal was correctly disallowed for offside by VAR.
Jota eased Liverpool’s angst in the 64th minute.
Mane’s cross was misjudged by United defender Enda Stevens and Jota took advantage to head home from close-range.
Liverpool never look completely comfortable when the error-prone Adrian is deputising for Alisson and the Brazilian underlined why he was so badly missed with a superb save from Berge.
United substitutes David McGoldrick and Oliver Burke fired over in a tense finale, while Salah’s chip hit the post as Liverpool stood firm.