Liverpool kicked off 2020 with a win as goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane secured a 2-0 result against Sheffield United at Anfield.
Salah’s fourth-minute strike gave the Premier League leaders a perfect start to the New Year, but their general dominance of the contest did not yield another until midway through the second half.
Mane provided it, beating Dean Henderson at the second attempt to bank a 19th victory from 20 league games for Jürgen Klopp’s team this season.
They therefore restored a 13-point advantage at the top of the Premier League, having played one game fewer than closest rivals Leicester City and Manchester City.
Klopp’s teamsheet showed one change from Sunday’s win over Wolverhampton Wanderers as Naby Keita replaced Adam Lallana in central midfield.
But a late change after the warm-up saw Keita withdraw and James Milner take his spot in the starting XI. Nathaniel Phillips was among the substitutes following his return from a loan at Stuttgart.
The wait for a first goal in 2020 did not last long. Four minutes, to be precise.
Virgil van Dijk’s lofted pass down the left flank released Andy Robertson, who, aided by the slip of George Baldock, had time and space to guide a cross into the middle for Salah to tuck past Henderson.
David McGoldrick drew a careful save from Alisson Becker – making his 50th Premier League appearance – soon after play was restarted, his half-volley from the edge of the box well struck.
Henderson then produced an outstanding stop at the other end; Salah’s first-time, rising sweep from Jordan Henderson’s clever clip into the box was on course for the roof of the net until the United No.1’s fingertips pushed the ball over.
Georginio Wijnaldum aimed for the same region of the goal with 19 on the clock but was narrowly off target after exchanging passes with Mane and stepping inside John Fleck in the area.
Another Henderson save denied Liverpool a second on the half-hour.
From Trent Alexander-Arnold’s knock over the top, Mane cutely flicked the ball back into a supporting run from Salah and the Egyptian’s strike on the run was punched away by the Blades ‘keeper.
Despite the hosts’ ascendancy for the most part, United’s threat on the counter was apparent – and Van Dijk had to time a tackle perfectly on Lys Mousset to quell an attack that saw the visitors outnumber the Reds in the final minute of the half.
After a slow start to the second half, Roberto Firmino went direct with a thumping curler from the left edge of the box that whistled inches wide of the far post.
Next, with an hour gone, Salah hit the opposite frame of the United goal.
The forward’s attempted cross into the middle for Van Dijk evaded the Reds man and the defence, drifted against the left post and was scooped away off the goalline by Henderson.
Pressure finally told four minutes later, though.
Mane stretched his legs in the left channel and lofted a pass into the ‘D’ which Salah controlled and rolled back into the area for his teammate’s run. Henderson blocked the first shot but was helpless to prevent Mane from firing in the rebound and establishing a cushion.
With the tension eased, the Reds went after more goals; Firmino’s close-range chance was deflected away yards out, Salah’s driven follow-up palmed wide, and Mane’s blast beaten out on the other side.
But 2-0 was enough for Liverpool to pass their latest Premier League examination – Alisson catching a late chance for Oliver McBurnie on the goalline – as Klopp’s men continue to set a relentless pace at the summit.