Liverpool overcome the conceding of an early goal, and a spirited showing from the visitors, to record a 2-1 victory…
Liverpool’s top-four credentials passed a crucial test at Anfield on Sunday as they finally proved they can be victorious when not at their best against supposed lesser teams.
Previously this season Jürgen Klopp‘s men have all too frequently wilted in the face of expectation and a negative and/or physical opponent battling at the wrong end of the Premier League.
Although now safely ensconced in mid-table, Burnley’s 2-0 victory at Turf Moor back in August sowed the initial seeds of doubt concerning Liverpool’s ability to amass points when the going gets tough.
AFC Bournemouth, Swansea City, Hull City and Leicester City have all subsequently triumphed over the Reds, helping the seeds to take root and grow into a sizeable oak tree that threatens to undermine their top-four aspirations.
For long periods of Sunday’s encounter Burnley offered further cause for concern and in the final reckoning they can be disappointed not to be returning home with something to show for their endeavours.
Sean Dyche’s outfit enjoyed their fair share of possession and often looked the more dangerous side going forward, particularly in an opening period that included Ashley Barnes giving the Clarets a deserved 7th minute lead.
Liverpool struggled for the rhythm and fluidity that has seen them routinely prosper against the rest of the top six this term but they managed to fashion an equaliser on the stroke of half-time through Georginio Wijnaldum.
Klopp’s men were better in the second half but were left hanging on in the closing stages after failing to build on a brilliant 61st minute Emre Can strike.
Analysing proceedings at his post-match press conference, Klopp conceded his team were poor but was pleased they found a way to win ‘ugly’ for a change.
“Obviously we all have to get used to it a little bit because it’s the first ugly game we’ve won,” remarked the German. “Usually when we were not at our best we’ve lost and in a few parts of the game we weren’t at our best today…
“First half Burnley were better because we all played their game, if you want. The ball was always in the air, fighting for second balls, they were obviously better around second balls. The goal we conceded, we could’ve defended better, and there were a few moments – a lot of flick-on challenges, foul yes or no, ball through and all that stuff.
“It doesn’t feel good and you are 1-0 down but I thought already at the end of the first half we had our moments and then we scored the goal…
“We knew we had to do better, of course. It was about formation, it was about orientation, that’s what we spoke about at half-time. When we played the long balls, we felt not that comfortable today. The plan from the beginning was to mix it up, playing build-up and long ball in a formation for the second balls.
“Like I said, Burnley was for sure in this part of the game better. Second half I thought we did much better because there was not really a chance [for Burnley] from open play, only set-pieces. They were dangerous enough, all in the six-yard box and Simon Mignolet did an outstanding job for us.
“Obviously it’s difficult for each goalkeeper but he did really well in these situations and then Emre with a wonderful strike, a fantastic goal. We defended passionately, that’s how it should be… We won the game and it felt well deserved.”
With none of their Champions League-qualification rivals in league action this weekend, the win gives Liverpool a five point buffer over fifth-placed Arsenal.
Three points at Manchester City next Sunday will see the Merseysiders overtake their hosts, and possibly second-placed Tottenham Hotspur who face Southampton earlier in the day, although they have played more games than the other three.
So that’s what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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