Situated in the press box within Turf Moor’s main stand, Oliver Miller offers his view on Liverpool’s Premier League match against Burnley.
Liverpool’s spirits weren’t dampened by the rain as a late Klavan goal clinched the points against Burnley
Puddles began to gather in the away dressing room. A mixture of sweat and rainwater dripped from the Liverpool players – or should that be soldiers as Jurgen Klopp had just declared that it had been ‘a war’. Tired bodies were strewn across the cold wooden benches but a sense of satisfaction prevailed. The door opened and in came the man who had delivered the only real moment quality in the match. Everyone rose as one, applauded and sang his name. Sadio Mane had done nothing… and then everything. His goal turned the final 30 minutes of the Turf Moor battle into a proper spectacle and, whilst it wasn’t the winner, it sent Liverpool on their way.
This had been a tough test for Liverpool – a physical game against an inform side in the middle of a difficult run of festive fixtures. The challenging weather conditions only heightened the sense of battle. Rain was followed by snow and wind – the international audience to whom David Stowell and Andy Walker were commentating must assume that Burnley is constantly wet and cold; their impression isn’t too far wrong. Amidst a challenging festive period and with Everton and Manchester City on the horizon Klopp made 7 changes – the potent ammunition of Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah were absent, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sadio Mane, and Dominic Solanke led the line.
Liverpool were not at their blistering best, shorn of both rhythm and Salah’s explosiveness. A match with quality in places rather than one laced with it. Adam Lallana was the standout figure in a first-half that didn’t exactly ebb and flow. His energy was infectious, even in the most torrid of conditions. “Outstanding,” Klopp labelled him, he even produced what may have been a potentially goal-saving challenge on Johann Berg Gudmundsson – even more remarkable considering he was deep in the Burnley half a matter of seconds previous.
Despite Liverpool’s possession – and Emre Can’s domination in midfield – the visitors had few goalscoring chances. Nick Pope, who made his debut at Anfield in September, was largely untroubled and well protected by centre-backs James Tarkowski and Ben Mee. Oxlade-Chamberlain went closest when he forced the Burnley keeper into pushing his shot away. Burnley arguably had the better of the chances in the opening period – Scott Arfield threatened twice to open the scoring – but quality was lacking in the Liverpool penalty area as it had been in Burnley’s.
The second-half continued in much the same vain – Liverpool dominating the ball but Burnley standing resolute and counter-attacking. Chances were few and far between… until the match’s standout moment of quality. Mane – whose impact on the game had been minimal at best – received the ball just inside the box, controlled well, turned tightly and fired a ferocious shot into the top corner. Pope was helpless. The Liverpool fans behind him jubilant.
Liverpool’s domination then became more fruitful. The link-up play between the inexperienced front-line became more succinct. Wave after wave of Liverpool pressure arrived at Pope’s goal – Lallana and his energy were at the centre of it all. Corner after corner was followed by shot after shot. Trent Alexander-Arnold fired a delightful strike from some distance, which forced Pope to make an acrobatic full-stretch save.
Burnley replaced the ineffective Jeff Hendrick with Sam Vokes and with it came Burnley’s best period in the game. It was Vokes who flicked on a cross for Gudmundsson to finish at the back post with a stooping header. Turf Moor erupted – it was what the home supporters felt their side deserved. The sixth Premier League goal that Gudmundsson has been directly involved in this season appeared to be giving the hosts a share of the points.
However, Liverpool’s centre-back pair had other ideas. Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan had put in a good display limiting the influence of the physical Barnes in testing conditions. When Can chipped a free-kick into the penalty area in the fourth minute of added time, Lovren leapt highest to meet it. His header may have been going in but Klavan made sure of it, thrusting himself forward to apply the last touch. The first Estonian goalscorer in Premier League history initially wasn’t sure if it was his goal… it was.
Burnley felt aggrieved that their lead had gone in such dramatic circumstances – there was “a horrible feeling” at the end for Sean Dyche and his players. Their mentality was impeccable but like at Old Trafford on Boxing Day they failed to hold on until the very end. For Liverpool, it was another display of spirit and fight in examining circumstances. The never-say-die attitude that Liverpool have exhibited recently is one that Klopp will be pleased with.
“A crazy game,” Klavan laughed – more to the point it was a crazy ending. An ending that left the Burnley fans frustrated and ensured Liverpool’s unbeaten run now goes to 16 games in all competitions. The weather conditions had been torrid throughout but nothing could dampen the spirit of the travelling supporters at full-time. The Liverpool fans left Turf Moor singing in the rain.