The new year brought new results. In a scenario that looked like Liverpool might drop points again, they finish the festive season by besting Burnley 1-2 at Turf Moor.
The Reds may have left it late but make no mistake, this was a massive victory. Having played just 48 hours earlier in a come-from-behind win against Leicester, Liverpool found the will to win again in a miserable match, wretched with rain against a strong side at home.
Given that both sides were returning to match play with such haste, this was a match that was always going to present some major challenges. Add the elements and both sides could not avoid a degree of sloppiness. Slow decision-making, errant passes, and a general lack of synchronization characterized the majority of the match.
With seven changes from the match 48 hours previously, there was a definite syncopation to any attempts at achieving any rhythm for the Reds. On the attack too many players simply have not played together enough to have any comfort. That meant a touch too many or too heavy for most of the Reds, which made it a bit easier for Burnley to stay organized and obstruct.
Liverpool may have a deeper and stronger squad but it was clear from the start that greater graft would be required.
Since his untimely injury early in international duty, Sadio Mané has struggled to find the kind of form supporters have come to expect from the Senegalese sensation. While he has continued to make contributions he has looked far from player that emerged as world-class last season.
The bright start to his season slowed somewhat dramatically. The brief spell on the sidelines and some questionable decisions on the pitch clearly had shaken some of his confidence. Consequently, his recent form dipped and his return to the starting eleven has been far less eye-catching.
Yet, Mané served up a moment of magic when breaking the deadlock with a screamer after pouncing on a deflected cross. The quality of strike should help settle him and see him back in form in short order.
Home or away Sean Dyche’s side has been a thorn in the side of nearly every top club this season. They are a big, robust, disciplined, and organized side that makes every opponent work for every opportunity. Their desire and character present a considerable challenge. They have been punching above their weight all season. Still, Liverpool’s quality and battle separated the sides.
In Emre Can and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool possess a combination of power and pace that the Clarets could not quite handle. Whatever anyone might say about Can and his future, his performance on a day’s rest was incredible. Not perfect by any means, yet he controlled the middle of the pitch and kept Burnley from bullying anyone in midfield. Plus, it was his marauding drive through the center that earned the free kick for the winner.
Meanwhile, Oxlade-Chamberlain was as bright as anyone with his work-rate and willingness to run at Burnley defenders. He was fresh and full of pace. He grew increasingly important in the second half and should have scored, only failing to finish on more than one occasion. Yet, he delivered the game-winning blow with a superb delivery for the headers of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan to win it at the