Anfield, Liverpool – Football is a funny old game, you can scarcely find in any other sport, moments in which the game has finished and both sides walk away not knowing whether they should be happy with the outcome or not. If you were in either the Liverpool or the Burnley camp on Sunday afternoon, you would be forgiven for feeling this way. Liverpool came into this match fresh off a resounding 3-1 victory over Arsenal but with a very visible dark cloud hanging over their heads. From all the bottom half teams Liverpool had faced in 2017 thus far, only away at Sunderland were the Reds able to muster up at least a point. And the dread of a similar occurrence was made very real when Burnley – winless away from home in the top flight this season – took the lead after only 7 minutes when Ashley Barnes got on the end of a delicious Matthew Lowton cross. Liverpool were timid, lethargic, and looked bereft of ideas. A similar look to several of their encounters with bottom half opposition. And despite a sprinkle of added fight in the second half, that’s pretty much how Liverpool looked for the entirety of the game.
Yes, I know Klopp’s men ran away as 2-1 victors however it’s hard to argue that they were convincingly the better team. From their only two shots on target – A scramble off a cross, tucked away by Wijnaldum, and a brilliant long distance strike from Emre Can – they found their two goals. Liverpool scoring by no means felt inevitable, and the marginal lead was almost taken away from them. There were a couple of late scares at the back as Burnley twice came close to snatching a late equalizer: An exquisite block from Klavan to deny Barnes was followed later on by Matthew Lowton wasting a decent opportunity after he pulled off at the back post from a set piece.
Still, with all of this being said, we cannot ignore the fact that Liverpool scored more goals in the 90 minutes, thus earning them the victory; that is how football works isn’t it? Besides, Klopp’s men have long been criticized for not being able to grind out results when the team is playing poorly, and like it or not, but that is exactly what they did on Sunday afternoon. Churn out more results like that against teams that can’t match theirs on paper, and we could see the Reds quietly creeping up the league. The table leaves no room for opinion or debate however, and Liverpool are sitting pretty in 4th, 5 points clear of 5th placed Arsenal (who now have 2 games in hand). Next week’s opponents Manchester City, sit one place and one point above the Merseysiders with a game in hand. If the Reds are able to grab a victory then they could jump to as high as second if other results go their way; with the prospect of that looming, I think it’s fair to say that the race for the top 4 is well and truly underway, and Liverpool are definitely a part of it.