After conceding their pole position at the top of the table at Goodison Park, it was imperative that Liverpool win and keep the pressure on Manchester City. Pep’s team having already won against Watford on Saturday night had pulled four points ahead and Klopp’s men needed to win today to keep up with them. The Reds promptly delivered, although Sean Dyche’s Burnley did trouble them a bit. Klopp had complained about the wind at Goodison and in the past he has mentioned how he does not like the lunchtime kick-off. Today, both those factors combined to troll his team at home. At kick-off and for most of the first half, Anfield was as windy and rainy as the proverbial Stoke City on Tuesday night.
If the fixture list and nature were trolling Klopp, he was trolling those Liverpool fans (like yours truly), who had bickered about Lallana’s substitution at Goodison a week back. Today, Klopp got the Englishman to start, while the likes of Naby Keita, Shaqiri and Henderson warmed the bench. But to be fair to Adam Lallana, he did deliver one of those performances that makes you eat your tweets. He excelled in the midfield, made timely tackles and intelligent runs. Most importantly, he was key in Liverpool taking the lead for the first time as it was his tackle that made the chance possible. But that came later. First came the nerves. An unchallenged Joel Matip meekly headed the ball out for a corner, and James Tarkowski’s unnoticed foul on Alisson allowed Ashley Westwood to float the ball into the goal from his corner in the sixth minute.
As expected, Liverpool reacted with a flurry of attacks but the equalizer came when Lallana switched the ball to Mohamed Salah, who used his pace and a one-two with Wijnaldum to reach the byline and then drive a powerful low cross that squeaked through the dual defences of Tom Heaton and Tarkowski for Roberto Firmino to tap in. The next Liverpool goal came when Phil Bardsley tried to clear and the ball bounced off Adam Lallana’s timely tackle on to the path of Salah, who was tackled by Charlie Taylor who could only pass to Sadio Mane, whose swirling shot made sure that Heaton did not have any chance of saving the goal. The game then coasted till the half-time.
Burnley began the second half well but did not create any meaningful chances. Then in the 67th minute, one of Heaton’s many miscued goal-kicks was hit straight to Mohamed Salah who ran straight at him with the ball at his feet. Charlie Taylor and Heaton together managed to block Salah from scoring but could not stop Firmino who latched on to the loose ball and sent it packing into the net. It seemed like Liverpool had collected all three points and matched City’s scoreline from Saturday evening, but Burnley had different ideas. As the injury time started, the Clarets were given a lot of room in Liverpool’s box and Matej Vydra had the vision to pass to the rushing Gudmundsson, who scored with a brilliant low drive. But Liverpool restored the lead back to two goals almost immediately as Sturridge played a brilliant through-ball for Mane, whose first touch allowed him to take the ball past Tom Heaton, who could only watch as Mane scored his 50th goal for Liverpool by calmly passing the ball into the goal.
As expected, it is Liverpool who dominates the attacking stats. They produced a chance every 4.1 minutes, compared to Burnley’s extremely leisurely 31.3 minutes per chance. However, Liverpool continued to be slightly profligate in front of the goal, as only 5 out of their 23 chances were on target. Burnley had two shots on target out of 3 total and scored with both. In terms of xG, Liverpool’s xG ranges between 3.6 to 3.7 depending on the model, while Burnley’s xG ranges between 0.47 and 0.6. Burnley’s first goal had an xG of less than 0.01, while Sadio Mane failed to score from a few inches out of the goalmouth (xG of 0.95). It was that kind of a day.
Liverpool’s non-shot xG of 2.7 indicates that they too had a couple of extremely high xG chances – the first goal and the chance mentioned above, while Burnley’s non-shot xG of 0.7 indicates that they could have given more troubles to Liverpool had they taken more chances.
Burnley’s downfall was because they allowed Liverpool too many touches in their penalty box. Liverpool managed 42 such touches while Burnley managed just 10. Of course, their errors cost them dear as well. They erred twice and on both occasions, they were punished with a goal. Aerially as well, Burnley did not produce the expected dominance from a Sean Dyche team. VVD managed to win all 7 of his aerial duels, while Firmino won 80% (4 out of 5) of his aerial duels.
Liverpool also ensured that they did not allow Burnley to settle into any sort of rhythm with their continuous pressing. They limited Burnley to 289 passes from 504 touches, while they themselves managed 649 passes from 848 touches. This, along with a great performance from Virgil van Dijk meant that Burnley did not have too much of a chance once Liverpool’s attack clicked.
After today’s game, Burnley find themselves in the 17th position, just two points above the relegation zone. Sean Dyche had recreated his magic and had taken Burnley into the safe zone over the last three months. However, the Clarets are in danger of heading back into the red zone if they do not pick up some points quickly. Today, it was an uneven contest. But the good news for Burnley is that the next few games are a bit easier for them and will give them a chance to go higher in the table.
For Liverpool, this game and the rest of the games in the league are about keeping the pressure on City and then hoping that City falters somewhere. Today, Jurgen Klopp’s men can claim that they achieved their mission for the day. They now head to Munich to see if they can progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, which increasingly look attractive as Real Madrid and PSG have been knocked out and Juventus are almost out.