Burnley 0-3 Liverpool
Turf Moor, Premier League
Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Goals: Firmino 43′, Phillips 51′, Oxlade-Chamberlain 88′
Fans are back in town
Final two games of the season, fans back in the Premier League.
While as Reds we won’t be too effusive in our happiness at seeing Burnley‘s faithful in the ground – a couple of thousand of them, anyway – it is, in the whole, an extremely welcome sight.
How noisy were they? Not outrageously so, which is unsurprising given the relatively small number, but they certainly made their presence known with boos at Liverpool possession and a habit of berating the referee at every opportunity.
It probably lifted the home players just to have a bit of an atmosphere, injecting a bit of meaning and energy into the first half of a game which was otherwise irrelevant for them.
Now, can’t wait for 10,000 fans inside Anfield on Sunday for what could be a brilliant day…
Bobby on song
In truth, the Reds should have been celebrating at least three times in the first half, rather than having only just snatched the lead before the break.
Most fans would have bet the farm on Mo Salah rattling in when through one-on-one, Thiago rifled in a low shot after a great team move and, biggest of all the chances, Sadio Mane was the benefactor of a deflection which landed at his feet just a few yards from goal.
Over, wide, wide.
The rookie stand-in stopper for the Clarets, Will Norris, wasn’t tested at all until Bobby Firmino hit the Reds’ first shot on target of the match, two minutes before half-time. It was a little scuffed, very straight, largely at the goalkeeper…who couldn’t move his feet quickly enough. Goal for Liverpool.
Added to his brace at United and his thunderous effort off the post against West Brom, this is probably our No. 9’s best run of form in front of goal all season long.
Incidentally, the Reds should be shown the shot stats post-game: three on target, three goals. Ignore the ‘keeper – that’s what we focus on against Palace, get it between the sticks!
Now you see him for what he is
Several games in a row now, Thiago Alcantara has been either the Reds’ stand-out performer or at least among the top individuals.
Here again he was the dominant force throughout, picking apart the microscopic holes in the Burnley midfield to keep the Reds moving, keep the ball high upfield and fashioning openings for himself and others.
It was interesting to note him far deeper than Fabinho at times, picking up possession between the centre-backs, before then darting past the Brazilian again to scheme and probe higher upfield.
It has taken time for him to reach this point. And why not? New league, new team, Covid training, no pre-season, an injury-ravaged side and a three-month absence of his own.
Now though, he has found his place. This is consistency. This is quality. This is Thiago.
Confidence does amazing things for players and if there was an award for biggest jump in personality and standing across the course of the season, Nat Phillips would be winning it by a distance.
This game was his, his night to remember likely above all others, regardless of how long his Liverpool career lasts.
He has threatened once or twice to score in previous games; here he almost did it, then he did.
A fierce drive arguably could have opened the scoring, but there was no such reprieve for the Clarets after the break, a thumping header too hot to handle for Norris and resulting in Phillips’ first-ever Premier League, Liverpool and indeed senior goal.
What else? Just a goalline clearance, nothing major. Great positioning for it, plus a thousand other clearances that Burnley‘s own centre-backs would have been proud of.
There were one or two positional issues first half, sure, and the odd wayward pass – but ultimately he was decisive and telling in both penalty boxes and contributed enormously to a vital three points.
Through to the “final”…weekend
Jurgen said it was the semis, so that’s Burnley out!
It all boils down to the final day (again), and the Reds needing a win at Anfield (again).
It’ll be Crystal Palace this time, not Middlesbrough, but we’d all settle for Gini Wijnaldum marking his (probable) send-off with another thumping goal, leading to Roy Hodgson’s own send-off being less than happy.
After all the injuries, the bad form, the awful home run, the problems of the season and the lack of supporters…we’re fourth. The Champions League is in our own hands.
Now it’s Anfield, with 10,000 Kopites in place, and just get that final three points on the final day.