Liverpool snapped a four-game Premier League losing streak to close back within two points of the top four as Curtis Jones and a Kean Bryan own goal earned a 2-0 win at bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United on Sunday.
The defending champions have been decimated by injuries and also had to cope without goalkeeper Alisson Becker after he lost his father to a swimming accident in Brazil this week.
But the Championship-bound Blades proved the perfect opponents for Jurgen Klopp’s men to restore some confidence as only a string of saves by Aaron Ramsdale kept the score down.
With Alisson’s understudy Caoimhin Kelleher also absent due to injury, Liverpool’s third-choice goalkeeper Adrian started in the Premier League for the first time since conceding nine goals in two games in October to Aston Villa and Everton.
However, the much-maligned Spaniard made an important early save to prevent David McGoldrick giving Sheffield United a shock early lead.
Most of the action was taking place down the other end as Ramsdale brilliantly denied Roberto Firmino, who should have teed up Jones for a tap-in.
The former Bournemouth stopper also did well to block from Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum, while Firmino’s lack of confidence showed as he tried to tee up Sadio Mane rather than go for an open goal from a narrow angle.
Such has been Liverpool’s luck in recent weeks that it was no surprise when a calamitous moment from Ozan Kabak saw the Turkish defender turn a harmless ball over the top into his own goal.
Kabak has made a nervy start to his Liverpool career after joining on loan from Schalke in the January transfer window as emergency cover for a number of long-term injuries to centre-backs.
However, his blushes were spared when the goal was ruled out for offside against Oli McBurnie in the build-up.
There was another sign that Liverpool’s luck is turning early in the second half when Alexander-Arnold was deemed not to have run the ball out of play before his cross was turned by Firmino into the path of Jones to slot home the opening goal.
The same two players were involved again for the second as this time the Brazilian’s shot took a huge deflection off Bryan.
Firmino was denied his first goal in seven games with the goal credited to the defender.
Andy Robertson and Salah were guilty of passing up more clear-cut chances that could have given the scoreline the reflection Liverpool’s dominance deserved.
But Klopp will be delighted just to get back to winning ways ahead of a huge clash in the battle to secure a place in the Champions League next season when Chelsea visit Anfield on Thursday.
Liverpool remain sixth but are now within striking distance of fourth-placed West Ham and close to within one point of Chelsea.
Sheffield United are still 15 points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.