Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Liverpool have one clear problem that could derail their Premier League title push

Burnley 0-2 Liverpool: Goals from Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota send the Reds top of the table despite another 90 minutes of missed opportunities in front of goal

Kieran Jackson
at Turf Moor
Wednesday 27 December 2023 08:15 GMT
Comments
Klopp on Liverpool's boxing day trip to Burnley

Burnley away under the lights on Boxing Day; not the easiest of scenarios for Liverpool, needing a win on the road after two successive Premier League draws at Anfield. But a goal six minutes in from Darwin Nunez and six minutes from time by Diogo Jota clinched three arduous points an hour up the M65 – and gave Jurgen Klopp the only Christmas present important to him and his football club.

For quite some time though, it was not so cheery in the Liverpool dugout. More VAR controversy and perplexity ensued at Turf Moor. A hatful of opportunities came and went, as did two disallowed goals. It should not have been so tempestuous but in the end, Liverpool limped over the line and go top of the Premier League, ahead of Arsenal’s clash against West Ham on Thursday.

This wasn’t dissimilar to their trip to Sheffield United earlier in the month. Their general control of the match was clear to see, but so was their wastefulness in front of goal. After spurning 34 shots at goal against Manchester United with scant reward and 13 versus Arsenal with just a solitary goal, it was a similar tale this time around. Nineteen shots tonight produced only two goals – but this time their wastefulness did not cost them.

Much like the pre-game light show, this contest started in a flash. Five changes from Klopp raised some eyebrows beforehand, but Liverpool began straight from the whistle with their foot firmly on the accelerator.

The Reds had four shots on target in the first 10 minutes, with one of those converted by the forever-unpredictable Nunez; some smart inter-change with Cody Gakpo down the left presented Liverpool’s No 9 – recalled to the starting XI – with space on the edge of the box. In customary Darwin fashion, which ranges from the susceptible to the sublime, it was the latter this time as he finished supremely into the bottom corner to open the scoring. It was his first goal in nearly two months.

Darwin Nunez celebrates after his first goal in nearly two months (Getty Images)

Burnley, early on, were not at the races and Liverpool’s palpable regret tonight will be that the game wasn’t put to bed sooner. Ryan Gravenberch squandered a four-on-four opportunity, Mohamed Salah struck the bar, while Waturo Endo forced a decent stop from Burnley goalkeeper James Trafford. There were chances at both ends, mind, with Zeki Amdouni and Josh Brownhill both shooting narrowly wide for the hosts in what was an entertaining opening half-hour.

The biggest talking point of the first half came when Cody Gakpo’s clinical finish in the penalty area was disallowed for a Darwin Nunez foul in the build-up, with replays showing that contact on Burnley defender Charlie Taylor was minimal at best. Eventually, VAR concurred with the man in the middle. Another season, another Jurgen Klopp run-in with referee Paul Tierney.

Jurgen Klopp was frustrated with the officials after two disallowed goals (Getty Images)

By the end of the half, Liverpool had shot at goal 14 times, with eight on target. The result? A single goal.

After the interval, Klopp’s exasperation at the officials dialled up another notch. A gorgeous team move by the visitors, which Harvey Elliott rounded off with a finish into the corner, was disallowed by VAR Simon Hooper. Mohamed Salah was adjudged to be interfering with play, and blocking Trafford’s view of the ball, in an offside position. Acutely harsh, especially given there were no protests from the Burnley goalkeeper and, frankly, he was never saving the quickfire shot.

It gave the hosts – and their previously despondent home support – a new lease of life. Liverpool’s lead was still just one and, suddenly, Vincent Kompany’s side were marauding forward. Suddenly, Liverpool keeper Alisson was misplacing passes. Suddenly, there was a sniff and Turf Moor was roaring.

And they should have been level. They had two golden chances. Johann Gudmundsson will want back his glaring chance at the back post after the Iceland international, completely unchallenged, floated his header over the bar. Then, Endo carelessly gifted the ball to Burnley sub Jacob Bruun Larsen tearing down on goal but the Dane struck inches wide. With that, Burnley left empty-handed.

Liverpool substitute Diogo Jota sealed the points late on (Getty Images)

Jota made sure of the victory, cleanly striking home from close range through Trafford’s legs on the stroke of 90 minutes. You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the Liverpool touchline. It was trickier than it should have been and it is quite evident that Klopp must get his front-line firing pronto, especially with Salah’s imminent departure to the African Cup of Nations next week.

Klopp, while aware of the recent chance-squandering, remains relaxed: “We could have made it easier. As long as I’ve been at Liverpool, we haven’t done it the easy way – why start now?!”

That’s all well and good, but such profligacy in front of goal will derail their title tilt in the long run. Yet for now, halfway through their Premier League season, Liverpool sit two points clear at the top of the table. Now it’s over to the Gunners.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in