Liverpool 2-1 Burnley Eight Things: Klopp’s statement

Narrow victory for the Reds –

Goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can gave Liverpool a fortuitous 2-1 win over Burnley – but what have we learnt from the game?

Gray inspired Burnley’s bright start

Andre Gray’s pace and tenacity caused problems for Liverpool in the reverse fixture. In the early stages on Sunday, he found burgeoning gaps in the right channel between James Milner and left-sided centre-back Ragnar Klavan. His seventh minute run stretched the defence, which allowed composed right-back Matthew Lowton to pick out Ashley Barnes, who prodded in from close-range.

Liverpool missed key men

Jurgen Klopp has an imbalanced squad, meaning the absence of key performers affects the whole system. The dynamic Robert Firmino moves the ball quickly in the final third, something not offered by Divock Origi. Jordan Henderson is a calming influence, yet replacement Emre Can was anything but in the first half, dropping into defence too readily and backing off Burnley at the first signs of a battle.

The Mane man

Thankfully for Liverpool, the list of costly absentees did not extent to Sadio Mane, their brightest first half performer. He got in behind the advancing Stephen Ward on occasions, one of his crosses missing a touch from Origi and at times it took some good defending from Ben Mee for his threat to be negated.

Fortuitous leveller

Mee had enjoyed a strong first 45 minutes, but was at fault for Liverpool’s equalizer in injury time. He failed to clear Origi’s cross and the ball fell fortuitously for Wijnaldum, who rammed home to ensure the first 30 seconds during which Liverpool played good football ended in a goal.

Klopp’s statement

Klopp took off arguably his most naturally gifted player in Coutinho after the Brazilian had had a poor first hour. It was a risky move with the scoreline level, even more so putting on an unproven 17-year-old in Ben Woodburn, but it showed his high-profile players that he would not accept underperformance. It may be of little coincidence that moments after this decision Can, another poor performer, unleashed a firm long-range drive to put the Reds in front.

Burnley’s late pressure

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet put in a commanding performance. However, he fact that the Belgian was often forced out of his goal to punch in crowded areas highlighted a lack of dominance from the centre-backs. Klavan failed to clear after Mee’s header, but made up for it by blocking Barnes’ effort while Joel Matip was lucky that his poor defensive header fell to the weaker foot of substitute Robbie Brady. With Liverpool not competing for balls in midfield, Burnley applied pressure for long spells and hit diagonal balls into the box, substitute Sam Vokes a target in the final 10 minutes.

Liverpool’s late breaks

With Burnley committing numbers forward, Liverpool created openings in the last five minutes when they broke through Mane, who moved up top after Origi was taken off. The Senegalese speedster was released by Can and nearly lobbed Tom Heaton but the goalkeeper tipped the ball over. His save nearly proved crucial when after a long throw from Ward, Keane flicked the ball on but Lowton delayed his close-range effort, which flew over.

What it means

Defeats means Burnley have amassed just two away points all season, though three of their last five games on the road are against bottom four sides. It speaks volumes for their home performances that they remain seven points clear of safety, despite recent improvements from those above them. Victory was arguably more important for Liverpool, who had not beaten a bottom half side since mid-December. Three points puts them five points clear in the race for Champions League qualification, but performances against those below them must improve.