SHEFFIELD, Dec 7 ― Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk scored a first-half volley to put them on course for a 2-0 Premier League victory over Sheffield United today, giving new Blades boss Chris Wilder a losing start on his return to the club.

The win lifts second-placed Liverpool to 34 points, two behind leaders Arsenal, while Wilder faces an uphill battle after taking over Sheffield United on Tuesday as they remain rooted to the bottom of the table on five points after 15 games.

Despite the defeat, Wilder will be encouraged by how well his side defended in a game where Liverpool enjoyed more than 75 per cent of the possession but created only a handful of decent efforts on goal.

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Liverpool captain Van Dijk volleyed home his first goal of the season in the 37th minute as the home side's soft-centred defence left him completely unmarked from a corner to deftly side-foot the ball into the net.

Though Cameron Archer and James McAtee offered plenty of pace on the counter for the hosts, they lacked the quality to trouble Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Kelleher and the home side managed only one shot on target in the whole game.

Mohamed Salah forced a brilliant reflex save from Wes Foderingham with a volley from another corner early in the second half, and Juergen Klopp was given another headache shortly afterwards when Alexis Mac Allister was forced off after picking up a knee injury.

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Substitute Darwin Nunez missed a great chance to double the lead in the 77th minute when he latched on to a superb through-ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold, but again Foderingham came to the rescue.

The home side's keeper looked to have kept his side in the game but he was finally beaten again deep into second-half stoppage time when Dominik Szoboszlai was picked out on the other side of the box by Nunez and rifled home the ball.

Van Dijk expressed relief at the final whistle as his side escaped with a victory following a spirited performance from their hosts.

“Obviously, you have to work for every game, especially against a team who changed manager. It was always going to a battle but we did well and deserved the three points,” he told the BBC.

“When you get a free opportunity like that, you have to finish it off (and) I'm glad that I did. It's an important goal, especially when you try to beat a low block,” Van Dijk added. ― Reuters