Observations as Liverpool Show Tenacity to Dismiss Talk of Losing Their Bottle
Liverpool ensured they remain hot on the tails of title rivals Manchester City with a 4-2 win against Burnley on Sunday afternoon. Despite the blistering conditions, the wind wouldn’t impede Jurgen Klopp’s side this time out, with braces from Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino enough to overturn the early deficit.
Indeed, it was hardly the best start for the Reds, with another contentious refereeing decision threatening to deliver a potentially pivotal twist in the title race. A day after Raheem Sterling’s offside opener against Watford had been overturned by the referee and given, there was no foul given for James Tarkowski’s challenge on Alisson. However, a combination of tenacity and resilience brought Klopp’s side back into the game, ensuring they remain just one behind City with eight games to go.
Here are the observations from the match.
Adam Lallana Repays Klopp’s Show Of Faith
Much has been made in the last few weeks about Klopp’s starting eleven, with Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri receiving limited game time all despite an apparent lack of creativity within the midfield. Hoping for a reaction after the 0-0 draw with Everton, one or both were expected to start to offer much needed impetus in a game where the onus was going to be on Liverpool to break down a well-drilled defensive unit. Instead, Adam Lallana got the call – a player without a goal or assist since January 2017.
A show of faith by Klopp, who suggested it was reward for fine performances in training, Lallana took his chance to silence the doubters, making more passes in the opposition half (51) and more tackles (4) than any other player. The England midfielder played a part in two goals, delivering a pinpoint cross-field ball to Mohamed Salah in the buildup to Firmino’s equaliser before a moment of individual tenacity culminated in the all important breakthrough.
A routine looking clearance from Phil Bardsley was chased down by Lallana, with the resulting block pushing the ball into the path of Mohamed Salah. If you needed evidence as to why Klopp chose him, this was it.
It encapsulated a performance primed on desire and determination, setting the tone for Liverpool’s press, rallying the crowd and delivering a firm message that he’s capable of playing a part in this title race.
Mohamed Salah The Orchestrator
Albeit unable to get his name on the scoresheet once again, Salah was at the heart of everything good in Liverpool’s play, showing confidence to take on his man while his all-round play held large contributions for the openings.
It was his cross into the danger zone that enabled Firmino to tap home while his run through on goal provided the chance for the second and third. He could’ve easily got his goal but for a fine save from the ‘keeper but his quality was there for all to see nonetheless.
Klopp summed it up perfectly post-match; just because Salah didn’t get on the scoresheet doesn’t mean he didn’t have an impact. Ask Burnley, they felt it.
Fabinho Keeps The Backdoor Shut
A fortuitous opener for Burnley certainly provided ample hope that they could get at Liverpool’s defence as the game wore on. Joel Matip’s nervy moments, including an unnecessary header in the build up to Burnley’s goal, left space for Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes to break into, but Fabinho was on hand to mop up. A continuous pattern through, the Brazilian showed great awareness to keep the backdoor shut after Liverpool got themselves in front, sniffing out the danger with timely interceptions before turning and marauding forward with the ball.
Breaking up the play became increasingly important as the game wore on, while an accuracy to find his forward runners provided Liverpool with opportunities to break on the counter. Another strong ninety minutes from the defensive midfielder, who continues to impress in all areas.
Sadio Mané Reaches 50
For all the talk of Salah’s brilliance and Firmino’s synergy, Sadio Mané has become one of Liverpool’s most important men in the last few weeks. Having led the line in the 5-0 win over Watford, the Senegal international was shipped out into his usual position against Burnley, but had no problem replicating his goalscoring touch.
Benefiting from the tenacious work of Adam Lallana, Mané composed finish saw him become the fifth Liverpool player to score in six consecutive league home appearances, after Michael Owen, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah.
His second would be equally as important, ensuring there were no late twists to the tail after Burnley grabbed a late second. A fine breakaway goal, Daniel Sturridge’s lofted through-ball perfectly picked out Mané on the left, who would make no mistake and ensure the points. It could and probably should’ve been more in truth, having watched an effort from three yards out cannon off the woodworks but Mané’s form over the last few months has been instrumental in Liverpool’s title bid. Now the joint top-scorer of non-penalty goals in the Premier League this season, his importance is no longer going unnoticed.