The character that Liverpool showed to win against Burnley was just as fulfilling as the three points themselves.
At one goal down in a rain-sodden Turf Moor, victory appeared a fair distance away for Liverpool but a few second-half alterations and an increase in impetus capitalising on tiring Burnley legs ensured Liverpool remained within touching distance of league leaders Manchester City.
Slow start by Liverpool
Liverpool did start the match slowly, mainly due to the seven changes that Jurgen Klopp made from Sunday’s derby win. “We made out life difficult,” said the Liverpool coach – hinting at the fact that the ‘second-string players’ took longer to find their rhythm than expected. He also highlighted that “Burnley’s specific plan was to be really aggressive in their challenges, so each ball they won didn’t help us mood-wise.”
As well as the visitors stuttering start, the injury sustained by Joe Gomez – which appears to be a rather serious ankle injury – only flattened the mood in the away dugout further. Burnley were disrupting Liverpool whilst in possession and held their defensive shape well, forcing Liverpool to play the ball mainly in defensive areas and without any serious penetration.
It led to a few tactical tweaks at half time by Klopp: “I told the players I shouted a lot in the first half but I wasn’t angry. I knew it could be a bit rusty, that’s how it is with a lot of changes, but now we are warm, used to it and we adjust a little bit.
"We could really bring Daniel [Sturridge] into a different position if Div [Origi] is more central and [Xherdan] Shaqiri more involved in another space. If we could make that a bit clearer then we have immediately better options.”
Burnley strike first
Liverpool’s changes were clear early in the second half as there was more tempo and incision to their play. However, it was Burnley who took the lead. “We conceded the goal, I didn’t see it back but everybody asked me about offside and other things, so I don’t know if it was or not,” Klopp said.
There was an element of confusion when Jack Cork struck the ball past Alisson on 54 minutes, but the goal was rightly awarded.
However, Liverpool weren’t behind for long as James Milner scored with a sweeping shot from the edge of the Burnley area. “Reacting like we reacted at a tough place like Turf Moor and Burnley, that’s special,” admitted Klopp. “It’s really good! Millie with a really, really good performance, especially physically, and scored that one.”
Half time changes send Liverpool the win
Following the tactical changes came the personnel ones as the visitors went for the kill. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino came on from the substitutes bench and made an instant impact. “We wanted to change when we were 1-0 down, then we changed when it was 1-1 because it was clear we still wanted to win the game and that’s what we had to try. That’s what we did.”
Firmino scored Liverpool’s second with pretty much his first touch, receiving the ball from a pull-back following a set-piece. But it was the third and final goal that was the visitor’s best. Burnley threw what they had left at Liverpool in the final minutes, and following a header towards Alisson’s net, the Liverpool goalkeeper collected and distributed the ball quickly setting Liverpool off on a counterattack. One-touch play, clever movement and a fine Shaqiri finish was Liverpool at their sharp and incisive best.
Klopp: Third goal was brilliant!
“We controlled the game in a lot of moments, but in all the moments where we gave Burnley the chance to have a proper tackle and stuff like that, then it didn’t look that cool. The second half was a perfect reaction and I am really, really happy about the three points,” the Liverpool coach said after the match.
The second half performance by Liverpool was much more like those of last season; there was a lot of energy and fast sharp passing which the Burnley defence could not deal with.
The reaction, in particular, was what pleased Klopp as not only was there an increase in impetus but also character. To come from behind in rotten conditions away at a physical side during a testing run of fixtures deserves credit.
Klopp’s decision to make such sweeping changes was both somehow undermined and vindicated, it was the character of the players, however, that not only saved Liverpool’s unbeaten run but also gave them the victory.