On paper, this seemed like the right fixture at the right time. After getting mollywhopped by Manchester City last week and dropping points to Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday, we needed a punching bag. A piñata that we could beat with a stick until three points fell out.
On paper, Burnley fills that function quite nicely. But they also had a pretty strong start to the season; 7 points from their first 12, and, at kickoff anyway, one place above Liverpool in the table. Maybe this wouldn’t be so straight-forward after all.
And of course, it wouldn’t. Liverpool went behind in the scoreline in the first half, caught up minutes later, and then spent the rest of the game beating their heads against a wall trying to get a winner. Which never came, and the Reds had to settle with a point at home to... Burnley.
So obviously the loudest chatter ahead of halftime was Philippe Coutinho returning to the Starting XI. I say “chatter,” but if you listen closely, you’d hear that half of the chatter was people making hissing snake noises. Whatever is going on with the dressing room, there’s definitely a sense that he’s lost the fans. When he made a sneaky threat at goal with a looping chip that was just marginally off-target, the Anfield crowd ooh-d and ahh-d. Even if it went in, the kind of Reds fans who are personally angry at him for what happened over the summer aren’t swayed quite that easily.
Liverpool dominated play for much of the opening 20-25 minutes. Which means, of course, they’d give up a stupid goal against the run of play. Some, uh, let’s say postmodern defending teed things up nicely for Scott Arfield, who hit a shot right on the edge of the 18 and easily beat Simon Mignolet.
If you weren’t able to watch the game— because NBC’s new Gold thingy is awful and dodgy streams are still dodgy— you could be forgiven for thinking perhaps you were one of the lucky ones.
The rest of us felt a familiar sense of dread that only comes after capping off a difficult week like we had by finding ourselves down 1-0 at home to Burnley.
Thankfully, we only had to wallow for about three minutes. Shortly after Burnley’s opener, Mohamed Salah did his thing; he took a long ball from Emre Can all the way from midfield, shimmied around two defenders, found a hole and punched through it. 1-1.
Liverpool were undoubtedly the better side through the first half. They held the ball longer, took more shots, and had better looks at goal. (Daniel Sturridge had the crowd on their feet after a close-quarters shot, before everyone realized he had hit the side-netting.) But, and I realize this will come as a bit of a shocker, but they couldn’t get another goal before the break. I don’t know what it is about this team that makes it so all their work and all their statistical advantages don’t actually translate to goals, but there it is.
The Reds picked up where they left off in the second half— keeping the ball, creating chances where they could, pressing hard for the go-ahead goal. A goal that, by the 70th minute, seemed like it might never come. Meanwhile, the Reds were just off-step enough that a Burnley gamewinner didn’t seem too unlikely.
ase no sucker punch please no sucker punch please no sucker punch please no sucker punch please no sucker punch please no sucker punch pleas— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) September 16, 2017
Said suckerpunch nearly happened in the 80th minute, when a Burnley corner kick nearly bore some fruit. It was an easy enough thing to deal with, but... I mean, you’ve seen Liverpool on set pieces.
Five minutes later, Salah was pulled down in the box and should have won a penalty. But Roger East apparently has a personal beef with our new winger, and the penalty call was waved off. Dom Solanke tried to fire on goal on the rebound but hit the crossbar.
It was going to be one of those days.
Liverpool spent all of stoppage time hurling themselves against the ramparts of Burnley’s defense, all to no avail. The Reds did indeed drop points. At home. To Burnley.
This is going to be a difficult season, isn’t it?