Burnley: Cork 55’
Liverpool: Milner 62’, Firmino 69’, Shaqiri 90+1’
Burnley was never going to be easy. They’re just one of those teams that are unnecessary. They’re unnecessarily tough, for whatever reason. They’re unnecessarily rough with our players. It’s always a matter of how we’re going to score more than them - not how we’re going to keep them from scoring, because they will score, somehow.
Riding high on the unlikely, nearly unwarranted victory of the Derby weekend, it was clear today that Liverpool were back to do the business. Somehow. That lineup was a wonder, with Alberto Moreno getting a start in the league, alongside a scrappy and tough midfield of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and new boy Naby Keita. And oh that front three, with Derby hero Divock Origi, forever hero Daniel Sturridge, and Li’l Sebastian Xherdan Shaqiri all looking to make their marks.
Of course, this meant that Burnley were looking to dig up some worms and break some ankles on behalf of bald Hank Scorpio - whoops, Sean Dyche. Always a scrappy team, but this time it felt like they were there to take the figurative place of bruisers Stoke in the Premier League. With the rain absolutely lashing it down, Phil Bardsley and company were able to do whatever they could to take advantage of the slippery surface. Ben Mee takes out Joe Gomez twenty minutes in with a almost literal crunching tackle right at the byline, forcing one of our best defenders off on a stretcher and wonder kid Trent Alexander-Arnold on even sooner than expected. Bardsley continues his wrecking ball routine throughout the match, taking out Sturridge and Moreno in succession not even 10 minutes after Gomez is out. Thankfully those two are able to stay in the game.
The first half was honestly dreadful for Liverpool and it took Burnley’s first goal early in the second half to electrocute the Reds to life. Suddenly after that the team came alive, fighting back and finding their fluidity despite all those fighting against them - including the rain. Everyone took their fair share of tumbles, including captain Henderson who fell right on his ass after trying to pass.
This quickly became the team that is clearly fighting for the title. That knows what they’re about, what they’re going for, despite many of the players having only played together briefly, if at all. Keita’s passing was transcendent, threading the ball in places that no one would imagine it could go, Henderson a stable anchor directing everything from the middle, and James Milner. Oh James Milner, who’d needed the rest from the weekend and came back stronger for it. James Milner, firing a rocket through Burnley’s walls to set the Reds afire and back into this battle. That ball burned a hole in the nets.
It may have taken an hour but the Reds were off to the races, with their second coming after the quick changes of Mohamed Salah for Alberto Moreno and Roberto Firmino for Divock Origi. Milner moved back into the left back position, freeing up the wing for Salah, and with Bobby’s first touch, our wildest Brazilian put the Reds in front. The Reds had become artists with this waterlogged ball and now the pitch was theirs to bend.
The graft now became trying to keep Burnley from scoring again and any other year, they would’ve. Not this year, not this defense, not this team. Despite all their tackles, all their crunches, all their dark arts tactics, they still fall apart where it counts. Their defense crumble like so much cardboard under the rain in the box, only able to tackle and scramble and just barely clear.
Salah is able to chip and Sturridge is able to drive (even when it looks like he can’t), and Alisson is able to keep saving, keep saving our butts. Keep starting that counterattack that we need desperately need. Then suddenly that’s it, Alisson catches the ball from going out, throws it, flings it over to Sturridge. Sturridge bombs forward just enough to give Salah space. Salah finds just enough, gets just enough space - which proves to be A LOT OF SPACE - and chips it. Not to Joe hart, hapless former England and City hero Joe Hart, but to PowerCube. Xherdan Shaqiri taking control and mimicking Milner, burning a second hole in the back of the net and making it solid, complete. 3 to the Reds.
Then the whistle is blown and it’s clear that even in the rain, even with reserves, on a cold night in Burnley, this is Liverpool and we’re coming for that title.
Your bogey teams be damned.