Stuttering Liverpool come from behind to beat Burnley

Ashley Barnes gives Clarets an early lead before hosts turn the tide at Anfield

Liverpool 2 Burnley 1

Liverpool stuttered badly before avoiding becoming Burnley’s first scalp on the road, a better though imperfect second-half display rescuing a dire first-half one.

Sean Dyche's men had managed only two points away from home yet when, – after seven minutes – Ashley Barnes recorded a first Burnley goal at Anfield since October 1975 an unlikely victory was on. To Liverpool's credit they dug deep following the interval but despite this victory a top-four finish is far from assured as their inconsistency seems final. Jürgen Klopp's side have, though, stretched their lead to five and six points over Arsenal in fifth and Manchester United in sixth, after completing two games more.

Klopp's one change from the XI that beat Arsenal last time out was enforced, a thigh injury ruling out Roberto Firmino; Divock Origi replaced the Brazilian. Burnley showed three different players from the defeat at Swansea City, with Dyche bringing in Tom Heaton, Scott Arfield and Barnes.

Liverpool began with a flurry that had Philippe Coutinho briefly threatening Heaton's goal. But next Burnley pinned Klopp's men back for a passage that had Andre Gray's pace posing questions down the right and ended with a slick opener.

When Jeff Hendrick found Matthew Lowton in an inside channel the right-back delivered a skidding pass that removed the rearguard, and which Barnes smashed past Simon Mignolet for a fifth this term.

It had the travelling support singing, “We are super Burnley” and recalled their 2-0 defeat of Liverpool at Turf Moor in August’s reverse fixture.

Then they stunned Klopp’s side after only two minutes. Now, the task for Liverpool was to avoid conceding another first-half goal, as they had done that day. Sadio Mané suggested how by taking the contest to the visitors along their left. His cross contained menace but Origi could not reach it.

What followed, though, was a half of drift from the red-shirted side as first Ragnar Klavan then Emre Can ceded possession by passing aimlessly.

On that late summer’s afternoon in Lancashire Burnley hit Liverpool on the break. Now they were allowed to operate with Klopp’s men in front of them via a patient buildup his high pressing system is supposed to smother. A group of players Klopp said had instantly focused on this encounter post-Arsenal were surprisingly disjointed, Mané proving the only bright spark as the half-hour approached.

The familiar sight of the Senegalese bursting along his wing before feeding Origi ended with the No27 failing to find Georginio Wijnaldum. But even Mané’s control was amiss following a Coutinho corner and the ball went out.

This was the story of Liverpool’s half: no rhythm could be found. They enjoyed more ball and territory yet Burnley were comfortable. Towards the end Coutinho, who usually possesses the time that marks the best, was hassled into stabbing the ball out.

Then, as can be football's way, Liverpool grabbed an unlikely equaliser. Origi punted the ball into the area and a defensive mix-up involving Ben Mee ended with Wijnaldum burying the finish. This was the final touch before the interval. Despite the strike, Klopp's job remained the same: to engineer a turnaround in ascendancy for Liverpool.

The problem is there is no solution for a manager whatever the instructions if the ball is wasted as Can and Coutinho continued to do at the second half’s start.

Liverpool could sporadically find an extra gear, though. Coutinho skipped along the right and stood up an inviting cross but no team-mate could finish.

On the hour Klopp had seen enough and it was the Brazilian who was removed for Ben Woodburn. Immediately after the change, Origi fed the hitherto misfiring Can and the German drilled a 25-yard shot to the left of Heaton, who might have done better.

This was followed by Can being booked and Burnley nearly profiting: from the free-kick a Mee header fell to Barnes, whose effort was blocked by Klavan.

Now, though, Liverpool showed a little more control, as the ball was stroked around and Heaton’s goal peppered, as when Woodburn hit in a ball from the left that deserved a finish.

Liverpool finished camped in Burnley’s half and with Mané forcing a fingertips save from Heaton.

But Klopp should be worried: at the death Lowton might have forced the draw. It sums the home team up: their manager just does not know which Liverpool is going to show up.

(Guardian service)

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