The Warm Down: Reds back to winning ways in the Premier League
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24: Liverpool player Sadio Mane in action during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Sheffield United at Anfield on October 24, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Liverpool picked up their first Premier League win of October over Sheffield United with the help of goals from Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.

As is so often now the case with Liverpool in the league, controversy was never far away.

Sheffield United's opener arrived from a questionable call on a penalty from referee Mike Dean, and without the intervention of VAR, Sander Berge made no mistake from the spot.

Firmino tucked away a rare home league goal before the break, while the winner arrived via a fantastic aerial effort from the Portuguese newbie, denying another famous upset in a roller coaster of a 2020/21 season thus far.

Here is the warm down of what was a must win game for Liverpool given events across Stanley Park recently. 

  • The lineup

There was much trepidation about a possible return for Liverpool's number one Alisson Becker, with earliest reported date of return September 30th.

So it would have come as a major shock to see the the Brazilian included in the lineup, never mind the match day squad.

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Alisson never seemed like he was gone, putting in an authoritative  display encouraged also by a the solid centre back pairing in front of him in Joe Gomez and Fabinho.

Joel Matip and Thiago Alcantara were notable yet expected absentees, but it was Diogo Jota's inclusion alongside the famous front three that commanded attention.

The summer signing starting prompted a formation rethink from Klopp and the management, reverting to a 4-2-3-1 style with fluid positional interchange. 

The tactical system, seldom utilised without the services of Xherdan Shaqiri, eventually rewarded Jota with his second goal in his first two home league games, the first player to do so at Liverpool since Sadio Mane.

  • Another gameweek, another VAR dispute

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It seems as the weeks go by, the Liverpool faithful have more of a case to feel hard done-by as a result of refereeing decisions and VAR.

This week was no different, as the 12th minute on the board struck Oli McBurnie was brought down by Fabinho with Sander Berge and Sheffield United taking the lead for the first time this season from the resulting penalty.

The question remains was whether the foul was committed on the penalty box line, and whether it was actually a foul at all given that it seemed Fabinho won the ball initially.

The Athletic have since confirmed that "VAR viewed the referee's on-field decision to award the foul to be correct, and found the attacker's foot on the line and therefore in the box."

It is worth mentioning that VAR did have it's uses in the match, rightly ruling out  a Mo Salah goal for offside- the only crime committed may be a crime against football, such was the beauty of the Egyptian's touch and finish.

  • Spirited Blades

Those who have seen little football played by Chris Wilder's men this season would find it hard to believe their position in the league given the 90 minutes put in at Anfield. 

The first half practically belonged to United, remaining compact and even setting up with as many as five in the back line out of possession and in doing so stifled the Reds until Firmino's goal at 41 minutes in.

Full backs Enda Stevens and George Baldock showcased their two-way abilities in being constantly involved going forward as wing backs while not being shy in going in for challenges also.

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Rhian Brewster had a much more subdued return to Anfield than he would have hoped for, consequentially being subbed off with 50 minutes gone for David McGoldrick.

The unfortunate and uncomfortable truth for Blades fans is that their side remain winless and currently avoid propping up the league by goal difference, and with fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea on the horizon, hindsight may judge this fixture as a missed opportunity to get more points on the board and shift the pendulum in their favour.

  • Winning ugly 

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The majority of the game transpired to be as expected; the visitors under the cosh with Liverpool having the lion's share of possession and doing their darndest to break down a difficult defence.

Sheffield United's aforementioned stubborn attitude afforded them opportunities in front of goal, such as Oli Burke's guilt-edged chance at the death, but Liverpool's resilience in the face of adversity should be commended equally.

Standout performances from the likes of Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane set the tone for Liverpool's relentless effort, most certainly aided by their limited yet efficient cameos in midweek.

After Salah's sublime effort was chalked off with the aid of VAR, Liverpool's determination remained in full flow, eventually manifesting itself in Diogo Jota's match winner arriving just minutes later. 

The former had many a chance to get his 101st league goal, striking the post after a sublime turn that left John Egan in the lurch and FPL owners nationwide weeping.

Liverpool were not without flaws this time out- getting three points in the testing circumstances shows the concerning form of recent weeks may be a distant memory, and also means the Reds have gone 62 consecutive games without a loss at the fortress that is Anfield. 

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