Liverpool’s 68 game home Premier League unbeaten record at Anfield was ended by Burnley in a 1-0 defeat.
A controversial late penalty from Ashley Barnes gave the Clarets the three points and condemned the Reds to their first league reversal at home since April 2017.
Despite dominating the possession and territory throughout the toothless defending champions — who have now gone four consecutive Premier League games without scoring — couldn’t force the ball past Nick Pope and now find themselves six points off the top of the table.
Liverpool had the lion’s share of the early play, but they couldn’t create anything of note with Sean Dyche’s visitors deep and disciplined. The hosts lined up in a 4231 formation with Divock Origi leading the line and Sadio Mane, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain acting as the supporting cast. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, meanwhile, started on the bench.
It took a while for the home time to find their stride with their shape and their best opportunity of the first half came right at the death. A haphazard attempt at a clearance from Ben Mee was pounced upon by Origi. Bearing down on goal and with the option of Mane to his left, the Belgian shot towards the top right corner and hit the angle between post and crossbar. It was a gilt-edged chance and the miss was typical of the meekness in front of goal that has haunted Liverpool in recent weeks.
Burnley, who time wasted throughout the half, were glad to go into the interval not trailing on the scoreboard.
Jurgen Klopp reacted quickly in the second half and replaced Origi and Oxlade Chamberlain with Salah and Firmino, but the flow of the game remained the same; the Reds dominant, but unable to make it count in any meaningful way.
The exhausted-looking Trent Alexander forced a good save from Pope when shooting with his left foot and replacement Salah — after a barnstorming run from Georginio Wijnaldum — was also thwarted by the English international with a strong save at his near post.
Firmino was guilty of missing a big chance when he badly shanked Andy Robertson’s cross wide and the tension among the players was palpable as they turned the screw in terms of pressure but not in terms of quality of delivery or composure. The sound of the second half was the clatter of lazily hoisted Reds’ crosses clattering off the bodies of the visitor’s defenders.
Sitting so deep they were basically in the Kop end, Liverpool’s barrage of attempted crosses were meat and drink for Burnley whose only real attacking thrusts were from long Pope kicks aimed at the general vicinity of Barnes and Chris Wood.
Barnes was fortuitous to even be on the pitch after a reckless foul on Thiago saw him booked and then — just as the half time whistle blew — after a clash with Fabinho. So, it was completely in keeping with the Reds’ recent luck, or lack of, that the former Austrian underage international both won and scored the winning penalty.
After running onto a flicked header, Barnes appeared to jump into Alisson after his attempted shot was blocked by the Brazilian. Referee Mike Dean was sure, though, and pointed to the spot. Burnley’s forward stepped up and slotted the penalty into the right corner.
Liverpool huffed and puffed and saw an Alexander Arnold drilled cross cleared off the line via flick by Firmino, but the visitors held on and so went the Reds’ home league unbeaten record and very likely their title challenge, too.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago; Oxlade Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Mane; Origi.
Replacements: Minamino for Shaqiri, Salah for Oxlade Chamberlain, Firmino for Origi.
Subs not used: Kelleher, R.Williams, N.Williams, Phillips, Tsimikas, Jones, Milner.