Much-changed Liverpool bounce back to ease past resolute Burnley
Manager Jurgen Klopp made seven changes but his side recovered from going a goal down to win 3-1.
Liverpool’s title credentials were given a thorough examination at Turf Moor but they passed with flying colours after coming from behind to win a gruelling encounter 3-1.
Manager Jurgen Klopp’s gamble of making seven changes, including leaving out his big guns up front, was ultimately justified but for more than an hour it looked like backfiring.
The Clarets gave their visitors a tough test and after goalkeeper Joe Hart had kept them in the game with two top-class saves from Daniel Sturridge and Naby Keita, Jack Cork put them ahead just after the break.
However, James Milner soon equalised and after Klopp sent on Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino the latter converted from close range within four minutes of his arrival and Xherdan Shaqiri completed victory in added time.
It maintained their unbeaten start to the season and ensured the gap to Premier League leaders Manchester returned to two points.
Klopp’s big call was in making sweeping changes from Sunday’s Merseyside derby win, giving Anfield match-winner Divock Origi his first Premier League start since May 14 2017.
That was also the last time Liverpool started without any of Salah and Firmino and Sadio Mane, who was out injured.
Burnley, without a win since September, showed five changes themselves but it was apparent from the outset they were intent on hassling and harrying their visitors out of their stride.
Although a couple of tackles were borderline – for instance, when Phil Bardsley appeared to go over the top of the ball on Alberto Moreno – in the main Burnley just made sure they did not back out of any challenges and it had the desired effect as Liverpool could not settle.
They were further disrupted when Ben Mee’s legitimate follow-through on Joe Gomez resulted in the defender being carried off on a stretcher with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
The usually unruffled Virgil Van Dijk was caught in possession by Ashley Barnes early on, forcing the centre-back to sprint to make a recovery tackle, and that appeared to set the tone for instability and uncertainty within the visitors’ ranks.
Chris Wood was ponderous when the goal opened up for him on the edge of the area and Joel Matip cleared the danger but Burnley continued to pose a threat with Phil Bardsley’s 40-yard drive whistling just past a post and Barnes’ superb volley from Robbie Brady’s free-kick ruled out for offside.
Origi and Sturridge fed on scraps at the other end, although the latter should have done better with his first touch when Milner clipped a cross to the far post.
Keita, making his first league start since mid-September, looked their biggest threat in the final third but there were few other players on his wavelength.
Two minutes into the second half Sturridge forced Hart into his first real save with a low, left-footed effort with the former England goalkeeper doing even better to tip Keita’s strike onto a post.
But just when it seemed they were getting into their stride Liverpool were hit with the sucker punch.
Alisson Becker only half-saved the Woods’ deflection from James Tarkowski’s header at a corner and in the six-yard-area scramble that followed Cork reacted quickest to poke the ball home.
Their lead lasted barely eight minutes as Milner finally beat Hart with a low effort just inside the Burnley goalkeeper’s left hand post after Origi had laid off Keita’s pass.
The midfielder’s ‘reward’ was to be dropped in as an auxiliary left-back as Klopp sent on Salah and Firmino for Moreno and Origi.
His change paid off immediately as Firmino scored wit his first touch four minutes later, tapping home after Van Dijk, at full stretch, squared Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick.
Keita was denied three times inside 30 seconds, twice by Hart – who also denied Salah in the same move – and once by Bardsley as Liverpool tried to kill off the game in the final 10 minutes.
Then Alisson brilliantly clawed Mee’s header away from the top corner in added time and Liverpool counter-attacked for Shaqiri to score before, at the final whistle, Klopp and Burnley boss Sean Dyche exchanged words.