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Reds see off tricky Burnley to keep heat on title race

Jürgen Klopp’s Reds cancelled out a nightmare start and a potentially nervy finish to keep up with the Premier League title race. Liverpool saw out well-earned 4-2 victory over a plucky Burnley side.

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Goals

Westwood 6′

Firmino 19′

Mané 21′

Firmino 67′

Gudmundsson 90+1′ (Vydra)

Mané 90+3′ (Sturridge)

An ominous opening and a sound response

Jürgen Klopp made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Everton a week before. Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana were drafted back into the starting XI in place of Divock Origi and Jordan Henderson.

With the pressure on the Reds to maintain their title push after City’s 3-1 victory against Watford, Anfield was looking for a big start. What they got was far from expected.

With just six minutes gone, Ashley Westwood whipped in a corner delivery from the left corner flag. A trio of Burnley players hemmed in Alisson on his goal line, preventing him from getting a touch to the curled effort. The set-piece sailed untouched into the far side of the net for the opening goal.

The Brazilian and his teammates immediately protested referee Andre Mariner’s non-call, but the only result was an early card for protestation.

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The ensuing stretch of play went to script, as Burnley sat deep behind the ball and dared Liverpool to break them down.

One flashed header over the bar from Sadio Mané was the closest the Reds came in the opening quarter hour. They eventually found a breakthrough on 19 minutes as Firmino got on the end of a low cross from Mohamed Salah.

The goal stemmed from a well-worked one-two between the Egyptian and Georginio Wijnaldum on the edge of the box. Tom Heaton arguably should have done better with the ball but appeared to be put off by James Tarkowski’s attempt to the cut the chance out.

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The goal buoyed the Reds and the Anfield faithful, who launched back into full voice as Liverpool chased a go-ahead goal.

Just as the skies cleared, Liverpool found their lead through man-in-form Mané on 29 minutes. Adam Lallana made an impeccable sliding challenge to block a clearing attempt just outside the Burnley box. The ricochet fell to Salah, who immediately came under pressure from Charlie Taylor’s sliding challenge.

The ball then careened straight to Mané a few yards left of center, and the Senegalese made no mistake – curling an emphatic finish inside the far post.

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The Reds smelled blood, and Salah snatched a volley just wide of Heaton’s left post a few minutes later. Liverpool would have to be content with a one-goal cushion heading into half-time, though. Sean Dyche’s men kept any further chances at bay and played out a typically disciplined first half.

Second half

Burnley pinned back the hosts in the early exchanges of the second half, but the Reds weathered the storm and carved out a chance on 52 minutes. Firmino’s ball just eluded Salah at the back post following a direct attack from a fizzed Alisson clearance.

Firmino would not be denied his second shortly after the hour mark. Heaton’s poor clearance fell straight to Salah, who broke in from 40 yards with the Burnley defense in pursuit.

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Taylor made a great last-ditch challenge to take the ball off the Egyptian’s toes but clattered into his goalkeeper in the process. The ball was left to a late-arriving Firmino, who calmly slotted past the last man.

Jordan Henderson came on in place of Wijnaldum after the restart. A few moments later, Fabinho went into the book for a rash challenge in the middle of the park.

Lallana made way for Naby Keïta on 75 minutes. The Englishman came off to an appreciative ovation following one of the his strongest performances in an injury-plagued few seasons.

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Dyche responded in kind with a pair of substitutions. The Claret manager brought on Jóhann Gudmundsson and former Red Peter Crouch in place of Jeff Hendrick and Chris Wood, respectively.

After a superb finish for his opening goal, Mané somehow contrived to scuff one over from six yards. The chance followed a beautiful, sweeping move between Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold down the Liverpool right.

Both sides made their final change of the afternoon on 85 minutes. Matej Vydra replaced Ashley Barnes while Daniel Sturridge came on for Alexander-Arnold, who appeared to be nursing his shoulder.

Salah nearly found the scoresheet following some nice interplay with Mané, but Heaton did well to palm the effort away for a corner.

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Gudmundsson gave the visitors a lifeline early in stoppage time. The Icelandic international latched onto a loose ball just ahead of Andrew Robertson and slotted it past Alisson to make it 3-2.

The potentially nervy ending was short-lived, as Sturridge picked out Mané behind the Burnley line just a minute later. The winger was able to round Heaton and slot home for his second of the game and eighth in his past eight Premier League appearances.

Up next for the Reds is Tuesday’s Champions League Round of 16 second leg against Bayern Munich, followed by a trip to Fulham next Sunday.

Liverpool

Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold (Sturridge 86′), Lallana (Keita 75′), Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Henderson 69′), Mané, Firmino, Salah

Subs: Mignolet; Lovren, Shaqiri, Origi

Burnley

Heaton; Taylor, Mee, Tarkowski, Bardsley, McNeil, Cork, Westwood, Hendrick (Gudmundsson 79′), Wood (Crouch 79′), Barnes (Vydra 86′)

Subs: Lowton; Brady, Gibson, Hart

Alex Mansfield
Co-owner, editor-in-chief of LFC Transfer Room. @el_mansfield on Twitter. Love a good, civilized debate!

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