Alisson earns Liverpool point as Manchester United retain top spot after Anfield stalemate

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United: The Brazilian denied Paul Pogba in one of the best chances of the game where both sides cancelled each other out

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Sunday 17 January 2021 18:37 GMT
Marcus Rashford in action with Thiago Alcantara
Marcus Rashford in action with Thiago Alcantara (Getty)

Manchester United extended their status as league leaders while Liverpool’s home record remained intact in a goalless draw at Anfield, with the chasing pack the biggest benefactors.

Jurgen Klopp will have been more aggrieved with a draw than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite the pacesetters having the two best chances late on to win the game.

A point at this ground - with the hosts not vanquished in 68 home league fixtures, winning 55 of  them - while stretching their unbeaten league streak to 12 matches will embolden United’s belief that they can be crowned champions.

It is Manchester City, however, that will have been most enthused by the result from an underwhelming clash.

There was a 121-day wait to witness Thiago’s home debut and in a first half that was more flat than fizzing at Anfield, he was the highlight.

The touches, turns and technique to create space and carve out one glorious pass after another was worth waiting for.

Liverpool’s staff and players had a clear-the-air talk following their defeat to Southampton over the reasons behind their stuttering form and Xherdan Shaqiri’s selection suggested that a lack of offensive ingenuity was one of them.

Sadio Mane takes on Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Getty)

The Swiss international and Thiago elevated an attack that had dulled for weeks and were the standout players of the opening 45.

Liverpool comfortably controlled it, with the ball and initiative in creating chances all theirs, but there was a distinct desperation about their final-third play.

They snatched at opportunities, showing no composure or clever decision-making in trying to reflect their dominance on the scoreboard.

Roberto Firmino was a chief culprit, but Liverpool weren’t really stretching United enough or causing them discomfort. That has been an offshoot of not playing between the lines as much as they typically would for a fear of being exposed given their centre-back situation.

Virgil van Dijk’s long diagonals and the ability of Joel Matip and Joe Gomez to step out with the ball remain a big miss.

Liverpool were tirelessly attempting to create, but they weren’t terrifying United.

Mohamed Salah takes on Luke Shaw (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The visitors were dicing with danger consistently playing out from the back in the face of a high press, but they escaped unharmed.

At the other end of the pitch, the impact of Bruno Fernandes was nullified and they were restricted to just one total shot, which arrived in the 34th minute.

It was United’s longest wait from the start of a Premier League game for their first attempt since their previous fixture at Anfield in January last year.

Thiago had completed more final third passes than Solskjaer’s men in the first half, but the Norwegian would have been the much happier manager at the break.

United had not come alive and yet they were not undone.

Klopp was incensed when referee Paul Tierney whistled for the interval, with Sadio Mane through on goal and before the full minute of injury time was up.

There was also mass annoyance over the delayed flags for offside decisions, with Solskjaer telling his counterpart and the fourth official that it needs to be changed with a matter of urgency.

The second half was a less one-sided affair as United began to commit attackers more.

Marcus Rashford in action with Thiago Alcantara (Getty)

On 75 minutes, Alisson provided a top-shelf save after Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw combined to play in Fernandes.

The Portugal international opened his body to direct a low shot towards goal, but Liverpool’s goalkeeper reacted rapidly to thwart it with his left foot.

The Brazilian also smothered a shot from Paul Pogba as United finished the match as the stronger side.

Neither team will be too harmed by the draw, but Klopp’s 200th game in charge of the Merseyside club brought an unwelcome stat. Liverpool have now gone three top-flight matches without a goal for the first time since February and March 2005.

A team managed by Klopp, meanwhile, had not been shut out in three consecutive league fixtures since November to December 2006 when he was at Mainz.

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