The Reds made the short journey to a rainy Turf Moor where Jurgen Klopp’s most enjoyable win of last season took place, hoping for the same outcome with a much different lineup featuring none of our reputable front three for the first time since May 2017. This banana skin of a fixture comes just four days after making it twenty years since Everton’s last win at Anfield, with the unlikely hero Divock Origi earning himself his first start for us in two seasons.
Recently, despite our record points tally in the league, we have been under a little scrutiny for our disjointed style of football compared to last season. Liverpool’s quest to perfection has led to a tweak in Klopp’s masterplan which he’s described as an evolvement in order to gain more control in games rather than the ‘heavy metal’ attacking football of last season, which he felt other teams had adapted to. This left our first half performance of little surprise to anyone.
We started off looking like a team which hadn’t played together very often. Which is funny because it was exactly a team that hadn’t played together very often.
Our more disciplined side shone through merrily however, which left Ashley Barnes wheeling away in euphoria before realising our stubborn high line had worked yet again and allowed the travelling kop a sigh of relief behind Alisson’s goal. Just after we’d caught our breath from that set-piece, Phil Bardsley came the closest to scoring in the first half with a whistling shot from 30 yards, which in all honesty was not troubling our number 13. Our biggest chance came from a Van Dijk header from a corner which, either side of the keeper, could’ve caused a lot more damage.
In a half of little action the shining light of our team was undeniably Naby Keita, who’s forward minded mindset seemed to be our most penetrative outlet through Burnley’s two banks-of-four, whilst the absence of Andy Robertson also made our attacks look a little more sombre down the left hand side, leaving us wondering what could’ve been if some crosses had come off the Scotsman’s foot instead.
It was clear Burnley’s game plan was to be aggressive and not allow us to play our football, leaving everything and anything on our players when winning the ball. A tactic which we should’ve expected and is very Burnley-like, however in that department we fought back well. The Claret’s aggressive nature did take its toll however on Joe Gomez, who has been somewhat indispensable for us so far this season, and was stretchered off with a potentially serious ankle injury.
However, despite the drab first half performance it was actually a subtle sign of our progress, where a couple of seasons ago we folded under Burnley’s belligerence and found ourselves 2-0 down at the interval, showing the steel our team has built under Klopp. But, you don’t win leagues by just matching Burnley so we needed to come out for the second half all guns blazing.
The boys came out, not all guns blazing, but a lot more promising. It was faster, it was slicker, it was fluid. It was SO close when the light of our first half (Naby Keita) flashed a left foot shot from 25 yards off his left peg against Joe Hart’s post. The roar from away end signalled the goal was coming as we slowly switched through the gears.
Then, eventually, the goal did come. Finally..
But this goal wasn’t part of the script. The script was volleyed straight out the window when Jack Cork wheeled away after scoring the most Burnley goal you’ve ever seen Burnley score, after Bardsley stabbed the ball out of Alisson’s hands following a nice little game of pinball which gave Jack Cork a tap-in. Just as our mojo was kicking in we weren’t even back to square one. We were back to square minus one. Every game Cork had scored in he had never been on the losing side. Won 15, drawn 2. Interesting.
The following passages of play screamed defiance. Salah and Firmino both warming up, the tempo was back in our game and in truth, their goal didn’t really disrupt the rhythm we had built before it. It took us just 8 minutes before another surge of urgency from Naby Keita resulted in an impeccable strike from James Milner, who’s character fills you with confidence you’re never out of any game. Like Cork, he had also never lost a league game from which he has scored in. Time for one to end.
The introduction of Salah and Firmino inevitably came, and saw Milner’s fun come to an end with him back at left-back. We now had four attackers on the pitch, which, if anything, signalled just how much we needed this win. A few minutes later we win a free-kick in a very similar spot to the one last season which sent us wild in the last minute.
“Hit Van Dijk, hit Van Dijk”.
Trent didn’t just hit Van Dijk, he put the ball on a plate for him to gracefully slide the ball to Firmino who put us in front with his first touch. The dubious goals panel could say Van Dijk now has two assists in just 4 days. What can’t that man do?
We were now in the driving seat.
The travelling fans found their voice at this point, with the lyrics to Bobby Firmino’s new chant ringing round Turf Moor, to which our number nine responded in industrious closing down and endeavour to make sure we see out this game and take home all three points.
All was calm until they won a corner in the last minute where hearts were in mouths and rightly so. Yet again they caused havoc in the six yard box before Ben Mee headed the ball goalwards as it floated in the air for what seemed like a lifetime before Alisson tipped it wide and saved us – literally. Seconds later he grasped the ball and bowled out an effortless 40 yard throw to Sturridge, who had been playing deeper as a creator. Two passes later the ball was in the back of the net and Shaqiri had his arms folded whilst watching the bodies in the away end fly everywhere as Liverpool make it 15 unbeaten in the league. Can we do it on a wet Wednesday night in Burnley? Course we f*cking can. The counter-attacking reds are back. Roll on Saturday.