Emre Can was the hero at Anfield on Saturday evening, as he scored the winner against a physical and resilient Burnley side who had led through Ashley Barnes’s 7th minute goal.
Liverpool began the game very slowly, almost intimidated by the away side’s direct and physical style, perhaps with the 2-0 defeat at Turf Moor in August at the back of the player’s minds. Burnley had a couple of corners and Andre Gray got in behind more than once, as Burnley saw more of the ball early on than they would have expected.
Next, it was Matthew Lowton’s turn to run in behind the Liverpool defence. He swung a ball across the box and Barnes slid in to open the scoring.
Burnley continued to attack after they had scored and won a free-kick after a foul by Can. The attempt from the dead ball was put over the bar, but Burnley had begun with intent. Liverpool were sleeping.
Sadio Mane soon caused problems going the other way, and he almost found Divock Origi with a cross, but the Belgian could not extend his neck quite far enough.
With half an hour gone, that half chance for Origi was the closest Liverpool had come, whilst Burnley kept threatening.
Philippe Coutinho took a succession of corners without success, failing to beat the first man every time, and Liverpool were yet to have a shot. The lack of quality was alarming.
Eventually, right at the end of a minute of added time, Origi crossed to Gini Wijnaldum, who slightly miscontrolled before smashing the ball into the Anfield Road goal. This was the home team’s first attempt, and what a time to equalise it was.
The second period was much improved from Liverpool, although still not at the level of last week against Arsenal. In truth, it could not have much more abject than the first forty five, in an attacking sense at least.
The Reds were fortunate to go into the second half level, but made the most of the momentum. Right from the first whistle, there was more purpose: Jurgen Klopp had clearly had strong words to say at the interval.
Philippe Coutinho – ineffective throughout – was withdrawn on the hour mark, replaced by Ben Woodburn, and Liverpool went in front almost immediately afterwards.
Origi opened up the play on the left and squared it to Can, who swept the ball in from the edge of the area. He will need a few more of those between now and the end of the season to convince Liverpool to offer him the £100,000-a-week contract he desires.
After that, it was Liverpool who took their time with every set piece. Burnley – who had done the exact same thing themselves until the Can goal had gone in – had no grounds to complain.
From then on, Liverpool did well to kill the game off. Burnley’s only chances came through free-kicks on the halfway line, taken by goalkeeper Tom Heaton, which were launched into the box. Simon Mignolet did well to punch clear on more than one occasion.
Robbie Brady smashed over a couple of times having come on as a substitute, but the game finished 2-1.
Burnley are still yet to win away from home all season, but are safe from the drop so will not mind too much.
For Liverpool, the journey towards Champions League qualification continues with a trip to Manchester City next Sunday. You would not bet against the performance being much better in that one compared to today.
The Reds will simply be glad to have gotten over the line in this one, as it was vitally important they did not drop points.