Last season Liverpool played Burnley at Anfield after a poor run of games which ultimately put an end to our title challenge. During that run we had lost at home to Wolves in the F.A Cup, Southampton in both legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final, and Swansea City, Hull City and Leicester City in the league. Going into the home game with Burnley many expected the same; Burnley to sit back, hit Liverpool on the break and win by the odd goal. Ashley Barnes scored in the first 10 minutes and it looked as if the prophecy was coming to pass. But Georginio Wijnaldum scored before half-time and Emre Can won the game midway through the second half with a 25 yard drive in front of the Kop, and the result changed Liverpool’s season. On Saturday at Anfield, Burnley were the opponents again and a similar result and effect were needed.
Jurgen Klopp again rang the changes in his Liverpool side by making seven alterations to the lineup following the midweek draw with Sevilla in the Champions League. Premier League goalkeeper Simon Mignolet returned to the side as Loris Karius reassumed his place on the bench. There three changes alone to the back four. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ragnar Klavan and Andy Robertson came in in place of Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno. Captain, Jordan Henderson was also rested with James Milner taking his place. In the most controversial change, Georginio Wijnaldum, one of the best players in red on Wednesday night, was replaced by Philippe Coutinho for his first start since his summer of discontent. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino retained their places in the front three. They were joined by Daniel Sturridge, who took the place of the suspended Sadio Mane. Henderson, Moreno, Wijnaldum and Lovren would make the bench however, alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dom Solanke.
Burnley were forced to make changes of their own following their 1-0 home win last time out against Crystal Palace, which turned out to be Frank de Boer’s final game in the Eagles dugout. Tom Heaton dislocated his shoulder in that game and faces a long period on the sidelines. Nick Pope was his replacement, with Adam Legzdins fulfilling his third choice duties on the bench. Sam Vokes joined Legzdins on the bench and he was replaced by Scott Arfield, as Sean Dyche clearly looked to pack out the midfield and stifle Liverpool. Chris Wood continued up front looking to prolong his impressive start at his new club, but Nahki Wells would miss out again as an injury ruled him out.
Liverpool took initial control of the game and thought they had an early appeal for a penalty. Joel Matip broke forward with the ball from the back. He got as far as Burnleys 18 yard line before offloading to Mo Salah in the box. Salah tried to turn James Tarkowski but ran into the centre half. Liverpool called for a pen but it would have been harsh in fairness. They continued to dominate possession but that didn’t mean anything come the 27th minute when Burnley took the lead.
Tarkowski played a long, diagonal ball out towards the left wing in search of Robbie Brady. Brady rose above Alexander-Arnold and nodded the ball onto Chris Wood. Klavan and Matip found themselves drawn towards the Kiwi target man, but all three players missed the ball. It bounced once before Scott Arfield, who had ghosted in between Klavan and the distant Robertson, coolly side footed into Mignolet’s bottom right corner from the edge of the area. It was a counter attack typically seen against Liverpool last season and Burnley had pulled it off to a tee. On the face of the play they didn’t deserve the goal but Liverpool’s defensive incapabilities had prevailed once again in favour of the opposition. Burnleys lead wouldn’t last long though.
Matip again was the instigator, lifting a well weighted ball towards Mo Salah who had drifted into middle from the right wing. Salah brought the ball down with a touch of subtle brilliance on the his knee, all the while fending off the attentions of Stephen Ward. He took one touch onto his left and was criminally given half a yard by the Burnley left-back to fire low past Nick Pope on his near post. He ran off to the Kenny Dalglish Stand corner flag to celebrate but it wasn’t warranted. Liverpool should have been scoring to take the lead, not draw level.
Liverpool would sustain their control of the game but were only carving out half chances. The closest they came before half time came from Daniel Sturridge. Neat work from Coutinho found the number 10 about 30 yards from goal with the ball at his cultured feet. He fed into Sturridge on the left corner of the box and Sturridge let the ball runs across his body before firing towards Pope’s near post. His shot would only find the side netting though and, not long later, the ref blew for the break. Sean Dyche will have been generally pleased with his sides display, especially defensively, despite the goal. Jurgen Klopp however, will have been frustrated. His side have most of the ball but were failing to create clear cut chances. Burnley were proving too stubborn and Liverpool needed to find a way through if they were to win this game.
The second half started as the first ended, with Liverpool having most of the possession. But again it was Burnley who would come closest to scoring. Robbie Brady whipped in a corner from the right that was headed goalwards by Ben Mee from the corner of the 6 yard box. The header was on target and beat Simon Mignolet, but not Joel Matip who headed off the line and over the bar. From the resulting corner, It was Mee who again connected with his head at the back post. This time it was Mignolet’s knee that would come between the ball and the net. The crowd were now starting to get antsy with Liverpool. They had a lot of the ball but were doing nothing with it, while Burnley had little of the ball and coming closer with their chances.
Liverpool created further half chances. Dom Solanke was brought on to give The Reds a different option up front and the crosses began to swing in. None met the former Chelsea striker though. It would Trent Alexander-Arnold who would have Liverpool’s first meaningful chance of the half though, when he volleyed James Milner’s stood up cross at the back post towards goal. But Pope got down well to parry the ball before leaping onto it. The clock was now ticking away on Liverpool’s chances of three points but they would have one last big chance to win the game.
Alexander-Arnold came forward down the right and fed into Salah. He took a heavy touch which created a 50/50 with Ben Mee. Mee flew into the tackle but Salah got their first to nick the ball away. The referee put the whistle to his lips but refrained from blowing as the ball came back to the 18 year-old full back. From the corner of the 6 yard box, he chipped towards Solanke on the edge. Solanke side footed a shot towards the Anfield Road End goal which looked certain to go in. Pope was equal to it though and tipped it onto the bar. It was a massive chance that Solanke should have converted and would be the last big opportunity of the game. Not long later Roger East called time on a disappointing result for Liverpool.
After the game, Jurgen Klopp insisted he was happy with the performance but frustrated that his side couldn’t win the game. It was not a sentiment shared among fans on social media, who lambasted his players for an inability to break down the opposition again. This seemed to be a problem that Liverpool had solved last season against the same opposition. It seemed like we had put this issue behind us. To see it rear its ugly head again will worry Liverpool fans.