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Heavy mettle football: Liverpool overpower dogged Burnley at Turf Moor

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Roar Rookie
11th December, 2018
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In one swift move, Liverpool extinguished this game from the jaws of parity.

All within eleven captivating seconds Burnley’s hopes of a point were evaporated and fire was breathed into Liverpool’s unrelenting chase of world-beating Manchester City.

Indeed, this was more than a midweek win against a side second from bottom. In the bright Lancashire lights and customary rain, Scouse credentials were put under a microscope.

Make no mistake this was an enormous test. This time last year, Klopp’s side would have buckled against Sean Dyche’s defensive and physical tactics. But that was then and this is now.

Despite zero wins in their past seven, Burnley can be a tough old place to go. Even for those unbeaten after fourteen games.

It was a much changed Liverpool line up from Sunday’s derby delight. Most startlingly was the omission of Liverpool’s famous front three. The first time in eighteen months neither of the trident had started in a Premier League game.

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Some quarters of the away section had bizarrely professed the game was lost before kick off and there was little doubt the changes had bolstered Burnley.

Both the players and fans got off to a raucous start, with Robbie Brady’s dangerous free kick a warning side for the unblemished Reds.

Within the first offings, Liverpool knew they were in for a game. Most obviously seen through Salford-born Phil Bardsley’s forceful tackle on Divock Origi. One way to welcome you to Lancashire.

At the weekend, Dyche referenced that Burnley had lost the eye of the tiger, yet early on the home side proved the more tenacious and likely.

Liverpool’s inauspicious start plumaged into further frustration with England’s prodigious centre half Joe Gomez carried off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly under a Ben Mee challenge.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp on the sidelines

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

The Reds’ first chance of the game came on the stroke of half an hour, with Alexander-Arnold’s cross being met by rising colossus Virgil Van Dijk, who could only head straight into the palms of Joe Hart. With only one goal in Liverpool red, the number four should have done better.

As the first half dragged on it was plain to see Dyche’s game plan was working to perfection. This was an archetypal Burnley performance against the top six. Compact at the back, difficult to play through, physical and desire-filled.

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As the half was coming to a close, Ashley Barnes thought he had broken the deadlock. A vicious volley from an exquisite Brady free kick flew past Alisson, only to be correctly waved away by the linesman. The Englishmen were unable to outsmart Liverpool’s brash high line.

Jurgen Klopp was evidently frustrated with the first half, Burnley had stifled his side’s creative flow and ingenuity, countering with bloody-minded desire and grit.

The second half started promisingly for the visitors, with Këita’s mobility initiating a lovely move ending with a Dan Sturridge rocket, finely rebuffed by an outstretched Joe Hart. The former England number one continuing his renaissance with another magnificent save.

Hart once again broke exactly that of the travelling fans, with Burnley’s number 20 returning to former glories, denying Naby Këita a postage stamp of a goal. The left-footed rapier was destined for the top corner until the intervention helped it onto the post.

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Barely a minute later and Alisson’s net had been breached. Burnley, for all their muster had done the improbable and Liverpool had conceded their sixth of the season.

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James Tarkowski’s header toward the far post created havoc in the Liverpool box and despite the keeper’s desperate efforts, Jack Cork was able to poke home into an empty net.

Liverpool protestations of Chris Wood being offside during the scramble fell on deaf ears, with Stuart Attwell pointing to the centre circle.

As the ball ruffled the net, Turf Moor erupted like a certain Neapolitan volcano, giving hope to the Burnley faithful that this may be the turning point of their season.

It felt like we’d been here before. A dour affair at Turf Moor. A Liverpool side struggling for ideas, failing to break down a makeshift back six… and then almost out of nothing, Liverpool had found their goal.

A cross-field ball from Xherdan Shaqiri to Alberto Moreno shifted the Burnley defence, allowing some intricate play to set up the oh so reliable James Milner. Getting the ball out of his feet early, without much fuss or back-lift, the Leeds born veteran swept the ball low and hard through a crowd and into the bottom corner. Joe Hart left to do his best impression of a statue amidst the chaos.

Liverpool FC in their third kit

Liverpool’s James Milner, center front, celebrates with teammates (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Jurgen Klopp delivered a much more muted reaction than after the last Liverpool goal, giving a nod of defiance to his bench. Potentially, a gesture to Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino to spearhead the rescue mission. The potent pair coming on with twenty five to play.

Alexander-Arnold’s set piece exploits were known long before the free kick in the 68th minute. However, Sean Dyche was starkly reminded of his prowess. A beautifully inviting ball in was met by the outstretched foot of Van Dijk, playing it straight into the path of super sub Roberto Firmino to roll into the net. No look away goals tonight from the Brazilian, this was a business trip to Lancashire.

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The stakes have rarely been higher at this point of the season and didn’t Liverpool’s manager know it. Allowing himself to engage in delirium amidst the FA’s better wishes, the German produced a quadruple fist pump. Much like his Liverpool team, not at their mesmerising best, but more a showing of steely resolve.

Given the scoreline and time of year, the away fans were right to be in a joyful and raucous mood. Generously wishing their blue neighbours a Merry Christmas. One would think Jordan Pickford will be receiving a few thank you cards from the Kop.

Somehow, beggaring belief, Liverpool were unable to add a third, in a passage lasting thirty seconds Joe Hart made two great saves before Këita, deserving of a goal, deliciously backheeled the ball only to be denied on the line by a desperate Phil Bardsley.

If anything, Burnley showed they would not go down without a fight. As the clock ticked into stoppage time, the home side almost found a second to break Liverpool hearts. After a mad scramble in the box Ben Mee headed toward the top corner, only for Alisson to claw it away.

Then, before you had time to put down the glasses, Liverpool had added a third. A two pass counter attack had ripped apart the scrambling Burnley defence. Some quick thinking from Alisson released Sturridge, who played a delicate lifted pass into the path of Salah.

The Egyptian lofted the ball into Shaqiri, who buried the shot on the half volley, icing the game in a swiftness few teams can match. The diminutive Swiss stood in front of the feverish away section, smiling as gleefully as the Liverpudlian masses.

Before this evening, Jack Cork had never been on the losing side in a match where he had scored. Yet thanks to Liverpool that has come and gone. Creating more history is undeniably what the Reds are chasing this campaign.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp with his troops

Liverpool’s coach Jurgen Klopp and his troops (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

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A 3-1 victory at Turf Moor serves as a statement of intent to those down the road in Manchester blue. Klopp’s side will not yield it seems, and after achieving their best start to a top flight season in 126 glory-filled years, Liverpool will be hoping to continue along this trajectory.

MOTM: Naby Këita. Provided the Liverpool midfield with much needed energy and exuberance. Shifted the Burnley defence with his slaloming runs and was incredibly unlucky not to have scored twice. A return to his best will be a major boost to Liverpool’s festive period.