Soccer

Liverpool vs. Burnley score: Punchless Reds shocked in first Premier League home defeat in nearly four years

Ashley Barnes inflicted a defeat for Liverpool on Thursday as Burnley put a shocking end to end to the Reds’ 68-match unbeaten streak at Anfield in the Premier League. Barnes won the day for Burnley in the 83rd minute, drawing a foul from Alisson and converting the resulting penalty. But it was the increasingly common problems at the other end of the pitch that did in Liverpool, who are now without a goal in their last four top-flight games. 

Divock Origi had the best chance to end that drought late in the first half but hit the crossbar when through in behind the Clarets defense.

Other half chances came the Reds’ way, especially after the introduction of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, but Burnley’s excellent defense forced Liverpool into a barrage of crosses and long range efforts that were all too easy for the Clarets, who ended an unbeaten Premier League streak of 1,369 days for the hosts at Anfield.

Klopp adds to Liverpool’s striking difficulties

After all their goal struggles of late it seemed curious that Klopp would opt to leave out two of his most effective offensive weapons, adding Xherdan Shaqiri and Origi to the front three in place of Salah and Firmino.

Klopp justified the decision by saying that Liverpool “have to use the quality in the squad, playing every three days and we have to make changes.” Of course rotation is always necessary for a club with such a hectic schedule though it should be noted the Reds had had a nine-day break before their 0-0 draw with Manchester United on Sunday. After such relative difficulties over the past few weeks one would have assumed that now was a logical time for the champions to get back to winning ways.

Certainly in the first half they did not particularly look like breaking their duck in a hurry, in no small part because of Burnley’s mastery of their opponents’ shot profile. Liverpool registered 13 shots before the interval but seven of them were outside the box, the sort of efforts that Sean Dyche’s side are more than willing to give up. The combined expected goals value of those first half efforts was just 0.79 and most of that came from one atypical chance that came late in the period.

An angry Jurgen Klopp remonstrates in Liverpool’s Premier League match with Burnley
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The 392nd minute of their drought looked like the moment it would end, Ben Mee making a rare error to allow Origi to run in behind. One-on-one with Nick Pope he had the sort of chance Burnley so rarely allow (it was worth well over half of their xG for the first 45 minutes) and he spurned it, curling an effort against the bar. It was not the sort of chance Mohamed Salah would have allowed to pass him by but a player who has played 22 minutes of football since Christmas is entitled to some rustiness in front of goal.

Instead it is for Klopp to explain why, with goals proving so hard to come by, he opted to hold some of his best forwards in reserve. By the time they were introduced Burnley’s tails were up and Liverpool were growing more desperate. Still Salah could get into the best shooting spots and test Pope as few others did.

Burnley’s mastery of the dark arts

There is more to Burnley than just infuriating opponents — as mentioned above they are excellent at making attacking teams play the way they want. Throughout this game they were funneling the Reds into crossing positions or areas from which they could take long-range shots, in other words building the ideal attacking patterns for Nick Pope and his center-backs to deal with.

What they are also particularly shrewd at is riling their opponents, forcing them to lose their cool or make a foul at an inopportune moment. The apogee of this came at half time when Liverpool and their manager seemed to boil over because Barnes had overreacted to a nudge from Fabinho as the halftime whistle blew. As players surrounded the 31-year-old and Ashley Westwood, Klopp came marching back down the tunnel and furiously remonstrated with Dyche. Burnley had got under their skin.

Early in the second half Barnes drew Thiago into an unnecessary foul in the final third, one from which Burnley could get their center-backs and target men into the box to attack the ball. That was their only realistic avenue to goal tonight, not necessarily a problem when you need to keep things tight against the Premier League champions and nick something late on. That is exactly what they did when Alisson brought down Barnes, who duly converted from the spot to earn a remarkable win for the Clarets.

Notable performances

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Still working his way back from a knee injury, he offered little of the dynamism and ability to beat a man that has made him such a valuable option in Liverpool’s midfield when he was at full fitness. RATING: 4

Nick Pope: If this wasn’t quite up to the level of his heroic display at Anfield last season, when he made eight saves to deny Liverpool a perfect home Premier League season, it was not far off with a quite excellent low save from Salah down to his left the pick of the bunch. RATING: 8

Premier League outlook

A crucial result at both ends of the table, Burnley leapfrogged Brighton to take 16th position and are seven points clear of Fulham in the relegation zone. With half their season complete Liverpool are six points off leaders Manchester United.



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