Liverpool welcomed Burnley to Anfield in a game that was a part of the 30th round of the 2018/19 Premier League season.
Sitting in second place, four points behind Manchester City after the champions’ win over Watford on Saturday, Liverpool simply had to win to keep up with Pep Guardiola’s ruthless side and maintain the hope of ending the 29-year-long title drought.
Burnley were in a situation quite different. Just like Liverpool, they need all the points they can get between now and the end of the season, but their aim is to stay in the Premier League. They entered the game hanging dangerously only three points above the relegation zone following Cardiff City’s win over West Ham on Saturday.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was still without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who had made a brief appearance for the club’s U-23 side on Friday, Rhian Brewster who is still some way off from his return to action, and James Milner who suffered a slight muscle issue. Centre-back Dejan Lovren was fit after a long absence but only made the bench.
Alisson Becker was in goal. Virgil van Dijk was partnered by Joel Matip at the hear of defence, with Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right and Andy Robertson on the left. Fabinho anchored the midfield with Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana alongside him, while the usual trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino played upfront.
Sean Dyche in the Burnley dugout was without defender Steven Defour who underwent a calf surgery and won’t be playing again this season, and winger Aaron Lennon who was out with a knee problem.
Tom Heaton was in goal. James Tarkowski and Ben Mee played directly infront of him, while Phil Bardsley and Charlie Taylor covered their flanks. The pair of Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood were tasked with holding the fort in the middle of the park, with Dwight McNeil and Jeff Hendrick playing out wide. Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood formed a powerful partnership in attack.
The First Half
Liverpool pushed forward with a reasonable amount of patience early on and the visitors had to stay sharp at the back, but the narrative of the game took a sharp turn after only seven minutes. Matip gave away a cheap corner and Westwood swung it in straight towards the goal. Tarkowski grabbed Alisson with both arms on the goal-line and clearly prevented him for reacting, but it was missed by referee Andre Marriner and the ball ended up in the net. The Liverpool goalkeeper put in a strong protest but it only earned him a yellow card.
A huge mistake by the officials but the visitors didn’t care.
But the moment served as inspiration for the home side, and they absolutely locked Burnley in their box before Lallana smartly switched play and found Mo Salah on the right flank in the 19th minute. The Egyptian played a one-two with Wijnaldum and squared the ball into six yards, Burnley defence failed to clear the danger and Firmino made sure it got over the line.
Liverpool didn’t stop there, however. Minute 29 was passing when Burnley players tried to be clever with taking the ball away from their goal, and Lallana made a great tackle to win the ball back for Liverpool just outside the box. It reached Salah near the penalty spot and a defender dispossessed him, but Mane was this time in the right place to give Liverpool the lead with a great finish.
The Reds continued their domination for the rest of the half, with the Clarets only occasionally getting across the halfway line. The visitors mostly tried to use the power of Barnes and Wood with long balls up the pitch, but Matip and van Dijk had no issues in dealing with them. Liverpool slowly reduced their pressure towards the break but still managed to build a couple of half-chances.
The Second Half
The visitors pushed forward at the start of the second half and forced Liverpool to show their defensive qualities, but Klopp’s team passed that test with flying colours.
The front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino really worked hard and with some important support from Lallana they kept Burnley’s defence on their toes all the time, but the visitors didn’t look like they were losing hope; not while just one goal down.
McNeil was very good on their left flank, giving Alexander-Arnold a hard time and occasionally whipping in promising crosses, but the Liverpool box was well defended. Burnley’s strategy seemed to be to try and catch Liverpool off guard with sudden bursts forward in numbers, but Liverpool’s defence was marshalled so good by van Dijk that nothing worked for the Clarets.
And it would be Liverpool to gain further ground on their opponent. In the 67th minute, Heaton took a poor goal-kick and gave the ball directly to Salah near the halfway line, and the Egyptian stormed into the box. Taylor once more produced a good but ultimately useless tackle to dispossess him, and Firmino wrapped it up again.
With 15 minutes to go, a shot by Mane was deflected away and Klopp took the opportunity to withdraw Lallana for Naby Keita. Dyche’s response came four minutes later and Wood and Hendrick made way for Johann Gudmundssen and former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch.
Six minutes later, Liverpool almost put all doubt to rest but Mane somehow failed to divert a beautiful cross by Alexander-Arnold into the net from a yard away.
Daniel Sturridge came in late on to replace Alexander-Arnold who had complained about a problem, and took some shifting by Klopp to get his team into proper shape for the ending. Firmino dropped into midfield and Henderson went to fill the right-back slot.
It seemed the game would end in a calm fashion, but just as the three minutes of stoppage time started running, Gudmundssen escaped the attention of Robertson and took advantage of a sudden scramble in Liverpool’s box and scored his team’s second goal from close range.
But as Burnley went forward in numbers chasing a late equalizer, Sturridge displayed some excellent hold-up play up front and engaged Mane on the left side. The Senegalese was through and he rounded Heaton before calmly putting the ball into the gaping net.
Liverpool thoroughly deserved their win and there’s not much else to be said about the game, except to mention perhaps the incredible mistake the referee’s made with the opening goal. Be that as it may, in the end it didn’t matter because Liverpool turned it around and won.
They’ve now closed the gap to Manchester City to just one point, and as their quest for the Premier League title continues, so does Burnley’s struggle to stay away from the relegation zone.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 7.5, van Dijk 8.5, Matip 7.5, Alexander-Arnold 7 (86′ Sturridge 7.5), Robertson 7, Fabinho 6.5, Wijnaldum 7 (69′ Henderson 7.5), Lallana 8 (77′ Keita 7), Mane 8.5, Salah 8, Firmino 8.
BURNLEY: Heaton 6, Mee 6.5, Tarkowski 6.5, Bardsley 6.5, Taylor 7.5, Corke 6, Westwood 7, Hendrick 5.5 (79′ Gudmundsson 7), McNeil 7.5, Wood 6 (79′ Crouch 7), Barnes 6.5 (86′ Vydra N/A).
GOALS: Westwood 7′, Firmino 19′, Mane 29′, 90’+3, Firmino 67′, Gudmundsson 90’+1.
YELLOW CARDS: Alisson 8′, Fabinho 71′.
REFEREE: Andre Marriner.
DATE & VENUE: March 10, 2019, Anfield, Liverpool.
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