Liverpool: Firmino 19’ & 67’, Mane 29’ & 90+3’
Burnley: Westwood 6’, Gudmundsson 90+1
Liverpool have sputtered slightly in recent matches when they’ve had to take their show on the road, but Anfield continues to offer an opportunity to feast on the home cooking which will hopefully sustain the Reds’ title challenge. They will need that trend to persist if Klopp’s squad is to gain an edge on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Some potentially tricky fixtures remain on the horizon when Tottenham and Chelsea make their visits to Merseyside.
But today, the focus was completely on Sean Dyche’s Burnley side, and for the most part, that focus was apparent. Always awkward customers, with enough physicality to make things uncomfortable for more fluid opponents, Burnley are in a difficult position - flirting with the relegation zone with precious few matches remaining on the schedule in which to secure safety.
It had all the makings of a frustrating day at the office, and things certainly started out in unpleasant fashion for Jürgen Klopp. Already struggling to get used to blustery conditions, Joël Matip conceded a corner perhaps a touch too easily, and Alisson might have gotten to the resulting ball had he not been smothered and held down by an opposing player. Into the goal it went, while Liverpool’s players remonstrated to no avail.
They’ve not always been able to flip the switch as quickly as the home crowd would like, but Liverpool did so today. They were aided by a resurgent Adam Lallana - a surprise inclusion to the starting XI - who seemed intent on turning back the clock. The midfielder has never been shy about his pressing duties, but that eagerness was married to a sharper sense of timing and decisionmaking today, which caused problems for Burnley throughout the half.
15 minutes into the match, Liverpool were growing in confidence despite being a goal down. A great ball from Matip found Salah while Burnley were light in numbers at the back. Salah rolled it out to Firmino, whose shot was deflected out for a corner, from which nothing of note resulted. But it did signal a growing threat from the hosts.
A few minutes later, Liverpool rolled forward again. This time, Salah raced at lightspeed to the touchline, drifting past defenders via a give-and-go with Mané before teeing up Roberto Firmino for a tap-in at point blank range. Parity was restored, but Liverpool were in no mood to take their foot off the pedal.
Just as Liverpool turned up the energy, so did the weather. Wind, rain, sleet, hail - it all seemed to be on offer at Anfield, as though an impatient Mother Nature were rapidly pressing the buttons on her remote, looking for the right channel. No locusts turned up, but there were at least more goals.
This time, Burnley attempted to play the ball out from the back while in heavy traffic. It proved to be a poor decision, as a lunging Lallana was able to get a foot onto a clearance, sending the ball looping back to Salah. With defenders closing in on the Egyptian forward, the ball ping-ponged its way to Mané, who curled it perfectly past Heaton. Anfield erupted in relief and joy, while Dyche found yet another reason to bellow at the officials.
At times this season, Liverpool have been guilty of letting the interval disrupt their momentum, but they kept up their tempo this afternoon. Despite his prolonged absence from the starting picture, Lallana still found a way to be ubiquitous, winning balls back while offering up a healthy dose of forward momentum in possession. The most direct beneficiaries were the front three, who nearly crafted another goal minutes after the break with excellent interplay, before the wind seemed to turn Firmino’s cross into a half-shot past the post.
A third goal was coming, and it materialized in the 67th minute. An awful goal kick from Heaton saw the ball end up straight at Salah, who had a clear path to goal. A last ditch lunge took the ball away from Salah’s feet, but only as far as Firmino, who converted his second point-blank opportunity of the day. The three points were now well within sight, and could have been locked down earlier had Mané not somehow contrived to send a bullet cross from Alexander-Arnold over the bar from close range.
In the remaining phases of the match, Klopp replaced a quiet Gini Wijnaldum with Jordan Henderson, and also took off Lallana - who left to a warm reception - for Naby Keïta, no doubt with other critical fixtures looming. Daniel Sturridge was the last substitution from Klopp, who made an appearance after Alexander-Arnold appeared to have picked up a shoulder injury.
Burnley were briefly able to put the home supporters on edge with an injury time goal from Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson after Andy Robertson was guilty of switching off momentarily, but Mané restored the two-goal margin moments later after being put through by Sturridge. With the three points in the bag, Liverpool can now focus on their trip to Bavaria and keeping their Champions League campaign going.