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Philippe Coutinho – ineffective throughout – was withdrawn on the hour mark, replaced by Ben Woodburn, and Liverpool went in front almost immediately afterwards.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.
Simon Mignolet, 8 – made some good saves and punched clear well when under pressure, but his distribution could have been better (as always) at times
Nathaniel Clyne, 7 – another steady performance but could offer much more going forward
Joel Matip, 7 – assured on the ball and won a number of aerial duels
Klavan, 7 – stepped up to the plate again in the absence of Dejan Lovren and performed quite well, having probably not been expecting to start
James Milner, 6 – limited involvement in the game for large periods and struggled when the ball went in behind him, but helped to manage the game once Can had got the goal
Emre Can, 7 – scored the winner with a great finish from distance, but performed below average in the first half, like most of his midfield and forward teammates, and struggled to get into the game for a while
Adam Lallana, 7 – good work ethic but struggled, especially early on, and could not compete physically for large periods
Gini Wijnaldum, 8 – scored the equaliser at the perfect moment in first half stoppage time, allowing his team to kick on after that, and had the strength to compete much more in the battle than most of Liverpool’s other players
Philippe Coutinho, 5 – completely ineffective and on the periphery until he was taken off after an hour; looked tired and completely out of sorts
Divock Origi, 7 – held up the ball well and ran in behind multiple times; also was instrumental in both of the goals
Sadio Mane, 7 –one of the best players in the first half, but was afforded less space in the second, and got frustrated with the ball spending so much time in the air
Ben Woodburn (60th minute sub.), 7 – showed some good touches and did not look out of place despite replacing a Brazilian international at Anfield at the age of seventeen; very much part of the first team setup now
Lucas (79th minute sub.), 7 – took the sting out of the match and won a couple of crucial headers, and added experience as always when Liverpool were holding out for the win
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