Burnley 0-3 Liverpool: Firmino fires Liverpool closer to Champions League qualification
(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Liverpool continued their late-season surge for Champions League qualification as they leap-frogged Leicester City into fourth place after a commanding 3-0 victory at Turf Moor.

Goals from Roberto Firmino and Nat Phillips either side of halftime, rounded off by a fantastic finish from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, means that Jurgen Klopp’s side now know a win on the final day, pending a Leicester thrashing of Tottenham, will see them qualify for Europe’s premier competition next season.

There was just the one change from Klopp's side that dramatically overcame West Brom at The Hawthorns on Sunday afternoon, as Curtis Jones made way for Gini Wijnaldum.

Sean Dyche also opted for changes as he looked to cause an upset in Burnley’s first home game in front of fans for just over 14 months. Will Norris came into the side, in place of Bailey Peacock-Farrell, to make his Premier League debut; whilst Johann Berg Gudmundsson came in to replace Matej Vydra.

It was the home side who started the better of the two, no doubt, influenced by the roar of Clarets' fans for the time since March 2020. Liverpool, similarly to their last two games, started under the cosh, sloppy passing, poor ball retention and poor finishing all suggested it was going to be a difficult night for the Reds in Lancashire. 

For all Burnley’s dominance in the opening stages, it was Liverpool who had the first meaningful chance of the night as Sadio Mane was on-hand to follow up Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected shot. However, Liverpool's No.10 - who most definitely should've done better with his effort for the Reds - was unable to keep his effort goal-bound as he dragged it horribly wide. 

The home side continued to probe Liverpool's goal as Chris Wood had great joy while paired up against Rhys Williams. But Alisson Becker was able to make sure the game remained goalless until Klopp's men found their shooting boots later in the half. 

Firmino was later gifted with a wonderful chance after some fantastic interlinking from Mohamed Salah and Mane. Salah’s ball into Mane was held-up before his backheel-flick found the onrushing Firmino, but he was unable to trouble the debutant, Norris, in the Burnley goal. 

Prior to Wednesday night's game, Klopp described the fixture as a “semi-final” for his side. Victory tonight would send his side into a final day shoot-out for a Champions League place; a feat that based on the first half-hour of tonight's game,  the away side failed to justify. 

It appeared that the script was already written for events in Lancashire, as Thiago and Salah squandered clear chances in quick succession. As the returning Burnley fans continued to make themselves heard with jeers and boos after every touch from Klopp's side.

Though, any pre-match script was disobeyed by Firmino just before the interval as he fired Liverpool ahead. Andy Robertson picked him out superbly with a low-driven cross into the box before he fired his effort past the helpless Norris.

The celebrations by those in dark black encapsulated their story as Liverpool edged themselves closer to Champions League qualification, ensuring they capitalised on Leicester’s slip-up at Stamford Bridge 24 hours earlier.

Burnley came racing out of the blocks just after the break as they nearly found themselves level. With Wood displaying tremendous pace to accelerate past Liverpool’s central defensive duo. His shot, though, lacked venom as he couldn't generate enough pace to bend it around Alisson from the edge of the box. 

The next goal of the contest was always going to be crucial and with each passing minute it felt more and more like it could be scored by one of those in a Claret shirt.

However, it was, Liverpool’s rising star, Phillips, who put the game beyond any reasonable doubt when he connected with Mane’s delicately stood-up cross at the back post to head in his first senior Liverpool goal.

This was his moment and his celebration said it all. It was no more than the 24-year-old deserved for his efforts since he emerged from the shadows to spearhead the Reds' late-season crusade in the hope of European football.

Burnley continued to make a dogfight out of the game as they refused to surrender. Klopp, with one eye on Liverpool’s season being decided on goal difference, opted to go with Oxlade-Chamberlain from the bench instead of the experienced James Milner

Klopp’s decision immediately paid off as Oxlade-Chamberlain fired past Norris from the tightest of angles to ensure Liverpool returned to Merseyside with crucial points on the board and, more importantly, the fate of the season in their own hands.    

Takeaways

Liverpool in control

Klopp's men became masters of their own fate as they made sure their season remained in the balance for the final embers of the campaign.

Fresh from Leicester's defeat in the capital last night, Liverpool knew a win this evening would send them into their final day showdown with Crystal Palace aware that a win would all but confirm their status amongst Europe's elite, for another season at least.

For a season that most connected with Liverpool would be keen to forget, a place in next seasons Champions League would reflect a very successful campaign. As it looked for all the world that they would have to settle for the Europa League only a few weeks ago. 

Nat Phillips continues his incredible rise

In a world of sliding doors, Liverpool's best piece of business this season could be Phillips' move to Swansea falling through last October.

The 24-year-old has had a meteoric rise over the past six months, alongside Rhys Williams. Although the latter seemed to struggle tonight, the pair have been crucial to the late-season success since their partnership commenced in February. 

Starting XI's 

Burnley: Norris; Lowton, Taylor, Cork, Tarkowski, Mee, Gudmundsson, Brownhill, Wood, McNeil, Westwood.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Williams, Robertson, Fabinho, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.

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