They had missed this. The sense of community on a Saturday afternoon, a Liverpool home win featuring Virgil van Dijk’s long diagonals and defensive set-piece clearances. They had missed this. The swirling scarves, the songs and the seriously slick offensive play it soundtracked.
Amid the heavy grey clouds and crying sky, there was an influx of hugs and “nice to see you again”. It had been 528 days since family and friends could gather properly here and the rain had no chance of dampening the euphoria that togetherness brought.
Burnley had greater ambitions than the weather of dulling the mood, having ended Liverpool’s 68-match home unbeaten run in January that sparked a most forgettable spell for the Merseysiders.
Sean Dyche admitted it would have taken much to replicate that feat as his men “caught them at a very good time and we played very well. Last season they had some injuries especially Van Dijk, who is a Rolls-Royce player.”
Liverpool were not at full-strength again: Fabinho was absent after the devastating news of his father’s passing, while Andy Robertson was only fit enough for the bench and Thiago continues to work his way to full sharpness.
With midfield options light as James Milner nursed a calf injury and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was missing for personal reasons, 18-year-old Harvey Elliott was handed a first Premier League start.
He was a standout performer, clapped throughout by the returning Jordan Henderson, who had last featured for the club on 20 February.
Burnley got an early taste of what was to come from the hosts. Trent Alexander-Arnold curled the ball towards the far post, where Jota met it with his head but could only direct the effort high and wide.
The full-backs were Liverpool’s key pass kings in the first half and the opener would materialise from this avenue. Tsimikas dispatched a lovely ball that Jota read, darting in between Ben Mee and James Tarkowski to beat Nick Pope with a delightful header.
Burnley attempted to make immediate amends, with Josh Brownhill pulling the trigger from distance and Alisson saving at his near post.
The visitors created plenty of aggressive chaos, but it was Liverpool generating high-quality chances. Elliott twice supplied Mohamed Salah, who first forced Pope into sharp intervention then bent a shot around him and in from a tight angle – but also an offside position.
Mane skied the ball on the volley from another super Alexander-Arnold pass, while Pope had to punch clear under pressure from Jota.
Only the Portugal international’s goal separated the sides at the break; a scoreline more pleasurable for Dyche than Klopp.
Burnley cranked up their offensive approach at the start of the second half and Matt Lowton went past Henderson before sending the ball into the centre, where Ashley Barnes connected beyond Alisson, but was yards offside.
Van Dijk towered above their set-piece threats, a sight Liverpool had desperately missed for the majority of last season. At the other end of the pitch, the Dutchman wrapped Alexander-Arnold’s corner on the volley, with Mane almost turning it in at the far post.
Elliott, nightmarish for Burnley when popping up in pockets of space, yet again crafted a clever ball for Salah. The Egyptian chested down and fired off a shot that required Dwight McNeil to clear off the line.
But Liverpool came and came again. Pope somehow managed to thwart a Mane shot on the turn through a flood of bodies, but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do short minutes later.
Van Dijk dispatched a long diagonal, which was controlled wonderfully by Elliott on his chest. The teenager fed Alexander-Arnold, who chipped in for Mane.
The Senegal international finished off a phenomenal move by smashing in a volley. Liverpool finally had their cushion and as Burnley threw everything at ending strong, Tsimikas – nursing an injured shoulder after an uncomfortable fall – earned a standing ovation as he refused to surrender possession.
Liverpool were back at home, back in front of a full house, and back armed with determination to reclaim their throne.
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