Roberto Firmino adds shine to Liverpool’s victory over Burnley
Paul Wilson at Turf Moor
Liverpool not only kept up their 100% record this season with a fourth successive victory. In beating Burnley by a comfortable margin to return to the top of the Premier League table they set a club record of 13 successive top-flight wins. Jürgen Klopp and his players really are writing themselves into the club’s history books, since not even the great sides assembled by Shankly, Paisley or Dalglish ever managed that.
Impressive as the achievement is, however, there is no doubt that fortune favoured the visitors in the first half. Burnley gave a good account of themselves for half an hour until the complexion of the game was altered by two Liverpool goals in quick succession, the first a ludicrous own goal and the second a defensive gift.
Liverpool will not mind. Their only priority at the moment is staying ahead of Manchester City for as long as possible and they can now spend the international break looking forward to Newcastle at home when the domestic programme resumes. Burnley may not have been expecting to win this game anyway, though having its outcome established so early meant they were obliged to spend most of the second half watching their opponents stroke the ball around.
Both sides could have scored in the opening minutes. Chris Wood did well to stay onside to reach Matt Lowton’s long ball from the back and bring the first save of the game from Adrían in the Liverpool goal, before Mohamed Salah struck an upright when Sadio Mané played him into space in the area.
The contest was evenly balanced at first, with Dwight McNeil showing he had the pace and control to keep Trent Alexander-Arnold on his toes, and the Liverpool front three finding the Burnley backline difficult to break down. When Salah did get a chance after collecting Jordan Henderson’s return pass Nick Pope was off his line quickly to save with his legs, the rebound hitting the striker and narrowly missing the unguarded goal.
Joël Matip had to hook out a clearance from under his own bar to prevent Ashley Barnes meeting an Aaron Lennon cross in front of goal, the winger supplying exactly the sort of delivery from the right that Burnley’s front two would have wanted. Liverpool were trying to do exactly the same thing at the other end when they took the lead through an outrageous fluke just past the half-hour.
Alexander-Arnold set Henderson up for a cross, the Liverpool captain thought better of it and laid the ball back for the full-back to have a go and, as Alexander-Arnold swung the ball in the direction of the far post, it struck the back of Wood’s shoulder on the way through and looped beyond Pope into the back of the net. Considering both Alexander-Arnold and Wood were some yards outside the area it was a freak goal, to say the least. Alexander-Arnold looked a little sheepish about accepting his teammates’ congratulations and for Burnley it was an unlucky way to go a goal down.
No sooner were they behind than the home side’s concentration appeared to waver, the normally reliable Ben Mee putting his defence into trouble by giving the ball to Roberto Firmino on halfway. With Burnley caught unexpectedly short-handed at the back Firmino had no problem carrying the ball forward to the edge of the area before releasing the supporting Mané, who beat Pope with a confident first-time finish.
In the space of five minutes Burnley’s resolve had been broken and the crowd’s optimism punctured. Barnes tried to hit back with a couple of shots on the stroke of the interval, one too high and the other just wide, though it was clear by half-time that Burnley were going to need something extraordinary to knock Liverpool out of their stride.
With a first clean sheet of the season in the bag just about the only worry for Liverpool was Henderson coming off worse when standing his ground in a collision with Lennon. The winger went flying through the air but Henderson required treatment and was brought off a few minutes later, a possible concern for Gareth Southgate and his England squad.
It took Liverpool a while to add a third goal. Even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a go before Firmino put a firm shot into Pope’s bottom corner. The Brazilian had started the move, trying to set Salah free, but when the winger lost control as he tried to step inside the defence, the ball ran free and Firmino needed no further invitation to bring matters to a conclusion.
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