Liverpool celebrated the 125th anniversary of their first ever game with mosaics around Anfield and a roll-call of former luminaries but more contemporary problems re-emerged to douse the party spirit against Burnley. The destruction of a sorry Arsenal side is beginning to feel a long time ago for Jürgen Klopp.
Klopp’s team dominated against Sean Dyche’s side but another cheap goal against and another profligate display despite having 35 shots made it a third game without a win in all competitions for Liverpool. Burnley were never going to be a simple assignment having learned the lessons of last season on the road but the home side lacked the cutting edge and defensive concentration to secure what would have been an important victory.
The first act came as no surprise to the Anfield regulars. Liverpool, refreshed by seven changes to the team that started the Champions League draw with Sevilla in midweek, controlled proceedings only to encounter stubborn resistance and creak under the first spell of Burnley pressure.
Burnley would revert to a back six when Liverpool had possession, with Robbie Brady and Johann Berg Gudmundsson dropping to support their full-backs. But it was no so much an overly-defensive approach from Dyche’s team as a necessity against Liverpool’s dominance. Sadio Mané was inevitably missed as he started a three-match suspension but with Philippe Coutinho making his first start of the campaign and Daniel Sturridge his second, the quality of the hosts’ attack demanded a disciplined, concentrated reaction from the visitors. They delivered one, blocking a procession of shots and reading the Liverpool threat intelligently, except for a costly lapse in the aftermath of Arfield’s opener.
On the rare occasions Burnley held play up in the Liverpool half – and they were indeed rare – the visitors played with the confidence that stemmed from collecting four points from visits to Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur this season. And just like Sevilla, they profited from their first meaningful attack.
Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson produced a crucial challenge on Arfield as the Scottish-born Canada international looked to pounce on Stephen Ward’s inviting cross to the near post. Burnley retained possession, however, and when James Tarkowski swung a long ball out to the left wing Klopp’s defence disintegrated. First Brady comfortably beat Trent Alexander-Arnold in the first aerial challenge. Both Liverpool centre-halves, Joël Matip and Ragnar Klavan, closed on Chris Wood for the second ball but neither could prevent the towering striker from steering a slight touch into the path of the unmarked Arfield. The Burnley forward steered a crisp finish inside Simon Mignolet’s right-hand post to leave Klopp raging at his defenders from the sideline.
It was another easy goal against Liverpool, one to invite further questions about the improvement Klopp claims is being made on the training ground, but fortunately for the home side they did not have a monopoly on weak defending against a long ball. The away support were still revelling in their lead when the Burnley rearguard switched off and Liverpool levelled through Salah.
Emre Can created the equaliser with a measured ball over the top from just inside his own half. The Egypt international read the delivery perfectly, unlike Ward and Ben Mee who backed off and allowed Salah to control inside the penalty area and steer a fine low finish beyond Burnley’s stand-in goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Normal service resumed thereafter. Liverpool continued to dominate and Burnley rediscovered their resilience to frustrate them. Sturridge just failed to connect with a James Milner delivery that flashed across the six-yard box and hit the side-netting when released by the hard-working Coutinho. The Brazil international may look as miserable as sin since being denied a transfer to Barcelona but all that matters is his attitude and effort for the club that continues to play his wages. Neither could be faulted, though an end product eluded him throughout.
It was only in the final stages that Burnley attacked in numbers again and their late adventure almost edged them back in front. Brady stung Mignolet’s palms from 25 yards before, from two corners in quick succession by the Republic of Ireland international, Mee had two free headers at the back post. The defender’s first looped over Mignolet but was headed off the line by Matip. His second was saved at close range by the Liverpool goalkeeper with Anfield enraged by a warning unheeded.
Klopp introduced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke in a concerted push for victory. The latter went close to obliging when he volleyed against the bar from close range after Alexander-Arnold’s cross deflected into his path but, despite besieging the Burnley goal late on, there was no way through for Liverpool.
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