Football: Liverpool recapture English Premier League lead with win over Sheffield United

Virgil van Dijk celebrates a goal against Sheffield United.
Virgil van Dijk celebrates a goal against Sheffield United. Photo credit: Getty Images

Liverpool have reclaimed the English Premier league lead in an enthralling title race, as Alexis Mac Allister's thunderbolt and a late header by Cody Gakpo secured a nervy 3-1 home victory over bottom club Sheffield United.

Juergen Klopp's side have 70 points from 30 games, two ahead of Arsenal and three more than champions Manchester City, both of whom won on Thursday (NZ time) to crank up the pressure.

A bizarre opener by Darwin Nunez after 17 minutes, when he closed down keeper Ivo Grbic and blocked his attempted clearance into the net, looked set to open the floodgates, as Liverpool sought the win they needed to dislodge Arsenal from top spot.

Liverpool were way below their best and an adventurous United side stunned the Anfield crowd shortly after halftime, when a Connor Bradley own goal levelled the scores.

The visitors looked capable of hanging on for a shock point, before a loose ball came out to Mac Allister in the 76th minute and he smashed a swerving rightfoot effort into the top corner.

Gakpo then made sure of the points in the 90th minute, with Liverpool taking another step towards the perfect Klopp sendoff as the manager prepares to leave at the end of the season.

United are 10 points adrift of the safety zone and look set for a swift return to the Championship.

Liverpool knack

If the key to winning titles is to keep grinding out wins even when performance levels dip, then Liverpool have the knack.

United were supposed to sacrificial lambs under the Anfield lights, but gave their hosts a mighty scare, until Argentina midfielder Mac Allister's moment of magic settled the nerves.

Liverpool struggled to quell a lively United side, but Mac Allister took matters in to his own hands with a finish that sent the home crowd into raptures - his fierce shot spinning and rising into the top corner past a helpless Grbic.

If that was spectacular, Liverpool's opener was comical, as Grbic took too long to make a routine clearance and Nunez jumped to block, with the ball rebounding into an empty net off the Uruguayan, who had his back to goal.

Liverpool began in sloppy fashion, with James McAtee wasting a first-minute chance for the visitors, when his effort was saved by Caoimhin Kelleher.

Despite having a remarkable 83 percent of possession, Liverpool never looked secure and an increasingly confident United equalised, when Gustavo Hamer met a cross with a header that glanced in off the leg off the unfortunate Bradley.

Liverpool would not be denied and chalked up their seventh win in their last eight league games.