12 March 2017

Liverpool 2-1 Burnley

Barnes 7'
Wijnaldum 45+1'
Can 61'

I'm still not entirely sure how Liverpool won that. That was not good. That looked like it would be a repeat of the last meeting, much to our infinite displeasure.

I'm entirely sure that I do not care how Liverpool won because Liverpool won.

Once again, Burnley seemed to know exactly how to exploit Liverpool's weaknesses, and did so almost immediately. Burnley came at Liverpool, no matter the venue, opposition, or Burnley's away record. Every single attack from the opening whistle was a long pass to Andre Gray in behind, in between Milner and Klavan, looking to take advantage of the striker's pace and Milner's desire to get forward.

So Liverpool's back line starts to drop. So then a deep cross from Lowton without a Liverpool player in spitting distance finds Barnes in between Matip and Clyne. Once again, it's far too easy for Burnley to find space against Liverpool's defense. Once again, Burnley's 4-4-2 formation and Burnley's tactics get over against Liverpool far too easily. Once again, Burnley are ahead thanks to an early goal.

All within seven minutes.

So now Liverpool are behind. Liverpool have to find a way to equalize against a team that's rarely looked like conceding against Liverpool. A physical side who prevented Coutinho and Lallana from creating absolutely anything and dominated aerially. It seemed the rest of the half was Liverpool cross blocked, corner. Corner cleared. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Unlike in the last meeting, Liverpool couldn't even create chances. It wasn't a deep, packed final third; Burnley contested and congested Liverpool's playmakers, denying space higher up the pitch, forcing Liverpool to go wide. There were just three Liverpool shots in the first 45 minutes: Matip from a corner blocked, Can from distance blocked, and Wijnaldum from distance off-target.

But then first-half injury time. Then Wijnaldum. One of those crosses, from Origi pulling wide, and a bit of luck: Wijnaldum's first awkward effort blocked but falling right to his feet with Mee now out of position, reacting quickly to prod a shot past Heaton, with what was basically the last kick of the half. That's now four goals and two assists in Wijnaldum's last six league games at Anfield. Home cooking tastes good.

Liverpool very much needed that goal. Especially since Burnley started the second half as they started the first, on top and threatening, albeit at least not to the extent as earlier. Still, chances for Barnes, Arfield, and Mee, from open play and set plays, three off-target, one blocked. Next to nothing from Liverpool, limited to Lallana wild from distance and a bunch of corners which were easily cleared.

Something had to change. And with a bench comprised of Karius, Moreno, Gomez, Lucas, Alexander-Arnold, Wilson, and Woodburn, there wasn't much that seemed possible. Liverpool's best available players were already on the pitch.

No matter. Coutinho, usually one of Liverpool's most important but demonstrably poor, got the hook on the hour mark. Woodburn, all of 17-years-old and with six Premier League minutes under his belt, came on in his stead.

And Liverpool scored within 60 seconds.

Sure, Ben Woodburn didn't have much to do with it, but it's the thought that count; the willingness to haul off an established star for a kid because the established star hadn't done enough.

A little hold-up play following Liverpool's throw-in, Origi cutting inside to lay off to Can, and Emre Can from nearly 30 yards out, arrowing a low shot into the far corner. Liverpool's first goal from outside the box since Can against Bournemouth in early December. The first time Liverpool's taken a lead in a match where they conceded the opener in 2017.

You'd hope that Liverpool would find a way to close out the match after finally going in front, to patiently control proceedings and deny Burnley opportunities. Nope. Burnley had chances almost immediately after Liverpool scored and with almost the last kick of the game, as Liverpool sat deeper and deeper and invited Burnley forward.

That's partly a function of Liverpool's personnel, tactics, and weaknesses. It's partly a function of what Burnley are capable of, their physicality and ability on set plays and crosses. But the last 30 minutes terrified, from Barnes in the 63rd, a scrambled set play shot blocked at the last moment by Klavan, to Lowton in the 93rd, a volley following a not-fully-cleared long throw scooped over under pressure from Klavan. It was at least slightly less terrifying after Lucas replaced Origi with 10 minutes to go, more secure with the Brazilian as a holding midfielder, but with Liverpool, it's always terrifying, at least in matches like these.

You just have to find a way. Even when you concede at home within seven minutes. Even when you're held to fewer shots than against any side other than Chelsea, City, or United. Even when it's incredibly hard to pick a man of the match because there's no standout; maybe Wijnaldum or Can for their goals or Klavan for his late defending, but each had demonstrable issues today as well.

Liverpool haven't able to this for the last two months, so even after that performance, it's incredibly reassuring when they finally do.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Can has to be man of the match, despite an up and down performance and a bit of luck for the goal.

Plus he's super handsome.