SoccerMatch Report

Mo Salah salvages vital point for title-chasing Liverpool at Manchester United

Jürgen Klopp’s side now level with Arsenal on points but second in the table due to goal difference

Premier League: Manchester United 2 Liverpool 2

Liverpool are the first to falter in the three-way title joust with Arsenal and Manchester City, and Manchester United will be delighted at causing this.

When Jürgen Klopp looks at the Premier League table he will now see his team second, level on points with Arsenal but behind on goal difference, and one point ahead of City, all three sides having seven games left. United, for the spirit shown in the second half, deserved a draw but Klopp and his side may come to rue allowing Erik ten Hag’s erratic team to take two precious points from them.

The Dutchman has overseen seven dropped points in nine days from winning positions, following the 1-1 draw at Brentford late last month and Thursday’s 4-3 loss at Chelsea, and are in sixth place, nine behind Tottenham in fifth, and one ahead of West Ham in the race for European football.

From the 67th minute this riveting contest took off. First, Kobbie Mainoo gave United an unlikely lead via a strike that will live long in the tale of this rivalry for the ages.


Collecting the ball on the right of Liverpool’s area the youngster’s pirouette bamboozled two visiting players before, unsighted, he curled home, the sweetest of strikes allowing the flailing Caoimhín Kelleher no chance, the ball kissing the left of his netting.

Then, as Liverpool’s title hopes buckled, Aaron Wan-Bissaka ­challenged Curtis Jones and the ­referee, Anthony Taylor, awarded the penalty. Mohamed Salah, ­profligate all afternoon, beat André Onana to the United ­goalkeeper’s right and Klopp’s men were level.

Before this the first half was a ­virtual training exercise for ­Liverpool who reached the break with 15 shots to United’s none and a 1-0 lead. The bucketing rain ensured a skiddy ­surface and enhanced the entertainment that featured Onana’s goal in front of the Stretford End being bombarded. The Cameroonian’s reflex save from the breaking Dominik ­Szoboszlai was ­followed by him popping up near halfway to launch a diagonal.

On the touchline Klopp, who would later hit near-rage, was in semaphore mode, unhappy at slack pressing or misplaced passes, while next to him Ten Hag could observe Fred Astaire footwork from Marcus Rashford that presaged a curving ball that allowed Rasmus Højlund to ­gallop forward.

United were quicker than the ­ponderous pace that has bedevilled them all season. Liverpool soaked up the pressure and sought to surgically cut their foe open, as when Andy Robertson skipped along the left and crossed to Szoboszlai, who missed while losing his footing.

When Luis Díaz scored in the 23rd minute it was shot number nine for Liverpool: as usual for Ten Hag’s leaky band the marking at Robertson’s ­corner from the right was amateurish – Rashford was in no man’s land at the near post, Mainoo and Casemiro ended up crowding each other, and Darwin Núñez, ­unchallenged, flicked on and the Colombian smashed in via an Onana palm.

Groundhog day again for United to the delight of the travelling ­support. The response consisted of a Bruno Fernandes free-kick floated on to Casemiro’s head – the ­Brazilian squared the ball across Kelleher’s goal yet neither Willy Kambwala or Højlund could connect.

Kambwala was partnering Harry Maguire for the first time of his nascent career, in the 26th central defensive partnership of United’s campaign. But the team were sieve-like due to how errant they were from front-to-back. When Núñez steered an effort over this came from the second corner derived from a counter in which United had no one patrolling their right.

A Salah mis-hit took Liverpool’s shot tally to 11, and Ten Hag shook his head after Díaz unloaded the 12th. But culpability was partly the Dutchman’s, at least, or why employ a manager at all? The period ended in a Klopp headshake as yet again a chance was spurned – this time from Conor Bradley, and Liverpool would pay. As the players trotted off United were in need of an extra body in midfield.

Yet Ten Hag retained faith in the same line-up and was rewarded. United’s equaliser featured disaster for Jarell Quansah and ecstasy for Bruno Fernandes. Close to halfway the 21-year-old Quansah turned and passed to the lurking United captain, whose instant finish from inside the centre circle had enough dip to avert the dive of Kelleher, stranded ­midway in Liverpool territory, and slip inside his left post. “No blame at all,” said Klopp of his defender.

Comically, considering how under the pump they had been, United became rampant for a phase that culminated in Casemiro being a boot-polish layer from stabbing home Rashford’s ball. This ­breathtaking affair paused as Antony, who had been dropped for Rashford, replaced him, while Jones and Joe Gomez came on for Szoboszlai and Bradley.

This worked for United because they surged downfield, Alejandro Garnacho passed to Wan-Bissaka who fed Mainoo and what happened was memorable. “I thought the keeper wouldn’t think I would shoot,” explained Mainoo. “It felt good.”

The watching Jim Ratcliffe had to be impressed – with Mainoo and how Ten Hag rallied his charges. Less admirable was Salah’s ballooned attempt but next came the Egyptian’s spot-kick before a close that had the packed venue in raucous voice.

In added-time Jones missed and Antony unloaded at the other end, with Kelleher gathering. – Guardian