Liverpool swat aside Burnley to move into top four

Jürgen Klopp’s side leapfrog Leicester on goal difference with one game to play

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring his side’s first goal during the Premier League win over Burnley. Photo: Martin Rickett/AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring his side’s first goal during the Premier League win over Burnley. Photo: Martin Rickett/AFP via Getty Images

 

Burnley 0 Liverpool 3

Jürgen Klopp is accustomed to his seasons going down to the wire but the identity of the men who have left Liverpool on the cusp of Champions League qualification may have surprised even him. First Alisson at West Bromwich Albion, now Nat Phillips at Burnley; the unlikeliest influences are behind the late rescue act.

Phillips headed home his first Liverpool goal and was at the forefront of a valuable clean sheet as Klopp’s side secured another precious victory in their bid for a top four finish. The defeat of Sean Dyche’s team, commenced by Roberto Firmino and finished by substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, elevated Liverpool above Leicester in the race for Champions League football and improved their goal difference over Brendan Rodgers’ team to plus four. One more win, over Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace in the former Liverpool manager’s last top flight game, and redemption will be found on the final day at Anfield.

Burnley had altered the course of Liverpool’s season in January with the away win that ended the then champions’ 68-game unbeaten run at Anfield and sparked an unprecedented six-match losing streak on home soil.

Their prospects of also derailing Liverpool’s Champions League prospects did not look so bright at Turf Moor, where Sean Dyche’s team last won a Premier League game in January and had taken merely five points from the last 27 available. They also had a goalkeeper, Will Norris, making his Premier League debut for the club in place of the injured Nick Pope. The 27-year-old’s previous top flight experience amounted to an 89th minute substitute appearance for Wolves in 2018-19.

With Chris Wood up against a vulnerable Liverpool central defence, however, and Dwight McNeil, Matthew Lowton and Johann Gudmundsson aiming for the New Zealand striker at almost every opportunity, Burnley had the armoury – and a vociferous backing – to serve up another uncomfortable evening for Klopp’s side. But the visitors, while uncertain in the heart of defence, were vibrant, dangerous and assured in every other department and created enough clear-cut chances to have established a commanding lead by the break.

Burnley started well but were sliced open from Liverpool’s first attack of note when a fine ball from Andy Robertson released Mohamed Salah behind the home defence. An excellent covering tackle by Ben Mee prevented the Egypt international from taking full advantage. Mee’s central defensive partner, James Tarkowski, produced a similar challenge to deny Sadio Mané when Salah found the striker unmarked inside the area.

Mané had missed the game’s first genuine opening when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross deflected into his path in front of Norris’ goal. The Senegal forward steered his shot wide at full stretch. Firmino turned a decent chance wide from Mané’s back-heel, Thiago Alcântara dragged a shot wide of the far post following a neat exchange inside the area with Salah and, seconds later, with Robertson taking a leaf out of Burnley’s book to launch a long ball over the top, Liverpool’s leading goalscorer blazed over with only Norris to beat. When Phillips sent a half volley high over from Rhys Williams’ knock-down, the sense that Liverpool might be made to pay once again for their profligacy intensified. But one flowing move later, they were ahead.

Robertson combined with Mané down the left and, with Gudmundsson failing to track the full-back’s run, he pulled an inviting cross back from the by-line for the unmarked Firmino to side-foot home from 12 yards. Norris should have done better with a shot that was close to his left leg and Turf Moor, for once, fell silent bar the sound of a celebrating Klopp.

Burnley had engineered, and missed, several opportuntites of their own prior to Firmino’s breakthrough. Lowton was unfortunate with a goal-bound drive that struck Williams’ head and deflected over, while Alisson saved bravely at the feet of Wood following a goalmouth scramble and from McNeil’s powerful drive. Liverpool’s goalscoring goalkeeper should have been given no chance when Wood latched on to Lowton’s ball into the area only to slice wide on the half volley from close range.

Liverpool were far more polished in attack, patient too, and doubled their lead early in the second half through Phillips’ first goal for the club. The centre-half had grown into his duel with Wood and also shone at the opposite end of the pitch when Mané beat Lowton to the by-line and lofted an inch-perfect cross into the area. Phillips, somehow escaping the attentions of the Burnley defence, rose to plant an unstoppable header beyond the exposed Norris.

Phillips excelled again to head off the line from Mee when the Burnley captain met McNeil’s corner with a towering back post header. Burnley continued to battle but in the final minute Oxlade-Chamberlain, receiving Robertson’s pass into the area, bamboozled Charlie Taylor with fine footwork before driving inside Norris’ near post. – Guardian

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