Game of the Week
Burnley 2–0 Liverpool, Turf Moor, August 20th 2016
Well, this wasn’t in the script. Every year, the Premier League seems to write incredible story after story, still managing to shock and surprise. Liverpool arrived at Turf Moor triumphant, following their epic 4–3 win at the Emirates last weekend. Liverpool fans, and Jurgen Klopp, will be forgiven for assuming that this was a game they ought to have won. Yet, newly promoted Burnley were immense and claimed their first home league victory over Liverpool since 1974.
Following Klopp’s defence of full back Moreno, it was a little surprising that he decided to field James Milner in the left back position. The Liverpool side also featured the return of England striker Daniel Sturridge, who had recovered from injury in time. Saido Mane, who was very impressive last time out, missed the game due to an injury he had picked up in training during the week. It proved to be a very significant blow, as Liverpool lacked any cutting edge going forward. Sean Dyche, on the other hand, had little selection issues, bringing in record signing Steven Defour into the side to replace David Jones, who had left Burnley this week for Sheffield Wednesday.
Even with the offensive changes Liverpool had made, it was at the back, yet again, where they were most vulnerable. Sam Vokes put Burnley ahead, after a mere 2 minutes, following a lapse in concentration from Liverpool right back Nathanuel Clyne. It was a dream start for the home side and a reminder of the defensive fragility of Klopp’s team. Liverpool’s response was lacklustre, huffing and puffing around the Burnley box, incapable of creating any sort of chance. Coutinho became a frustrated figure, shooting from distance on plenty of occasions, only to the annoyance of striking partner Sturridge, who then tried his turn and failed. Tom Heaton and the Burnley backline were in no trouble at all. Then came the killer blow. Sturridge, carelessly gave the ball away and Defour broke.
New Liverpool signing, Klavan, will not want to watch the highlights back as he pathetically attempted to stop both Defour, and then Gray, with the latter firing past Mignolet to send the Turf Moor faithful into ruptures. It was an abysmal half for Liverpool and it didn’t get any better. Dyche’s men were impeccabely organised, a very disciplined, narrow, back four and a dynamic midfield quad prevented any Liverpool resurgence. Michael Keane, in particular, was superb as he protected Heaton in the goal behind him. In truth, Liverpool, with 81% possession, looked very unthreatening, whilst Burnley, with a mere 19% of the ball, recorded the lowest ever possession share of a winning team since Opta began taking records in 2003. However, as both Dyche and Klopp pointed out in their post match conferences was that possession is of little benefit if it isn’t convicting or clinical. Just ask Louis Van Gaal.
Where do both teams go from here? For Klopp, there’ll be alarm bells ringing. Yes, its only the second game of the season, and yes, at parts last weekend, Liverpool were spectacular, but their defensive issues are extremely troublesome. Since Klopp’s appointment, only Aston Villa (12) and West Ham (10) have suffered more defensive errors leading to goals. The going doesn’t get any easier for the Reds, as they head to White Hart Lane next weekend. For Burnley, its a great result to recover from the disappointment of their narrow defeat against Swansea last weekend. Next up is a trip to Stamford Bridge, to face Antonio Conte’s men, who were victorious at Watford with a late comeback. Dyche will be encouraged by this performance, but he’ll be under no illusions that a long season is ahead with the Clarets remaining one of the favourites for the drop.
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