| 10.3°C Dublin

Infallible Pope keeps frustrated Reds at bay

Liverpool 1 Burnley 1

Close

Nick Pope dives to deny Liverpool yet again during Burnley’s draw at Anfield, which ended the champions’ chance of a 100 per cent home record this season. Photo: PA

Nick Pope dives to deny Liverpool yet again during Burnley’s draw at Anfield, which ended the champions’ chance of a 100 per cent home record this season. Photo: PA

Nick Pope dives to deny Liverpool yet again during Burnley’s draw at Anfield, which ended the champions’ chance of a 100 per cent home record this season. Photo: PA

Given Liverpool have dropped only six of their last 114 points at Anfield, it may come as no surprise that it needed a different kind of papal intervention to halt Jurgen Klopp's momentum.

"At times it was like Liverpool against Nick Pope," said the manager after seeing his previously unblemished home record suffer the stain of a 1-1 draw. He was not exaggerating, although it says everything about the standards set that he suggested it felt like a defeat.

In an alternative reality, Burnley goalkeeper Pope might have been preparing for today's Euro 2020 final, rather than successfully repelling the champions' efforts to preserve a 100 per cent home winning sequence.

Close

Liverpool's Sadio Mane tries to get past Burnley's Nick Pope. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Sadio Mane tries to get past Burnley's Nick Pope. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Sadio Mane tries to get past Burnley's Nick Pope. Photo: Reuters

 

More likely he would have been Jordan Pickford's England deputy, had the tournament gone ahead. The postponement may do him more good than harm if performances such as this are the norm. Gareth Southgate may feel he has a pleasant problem when international football returns.

Against a lesser goalkeeper, Liverpool would have been comfortable winners, easing towards their 100-point target, especially on the basis of their first-half performance when they were creating chances at will.

Pope produced three world-class saves, twice to deny Mohamed Salah and also when preventing Sadio Mane finding the top corner on the stroke of half-time. At that stage the game resembled an attack-versus-defence training session.

Close

Liverpool's Alisson saves from Burnley's Jay Rodriguez. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Alisson saves from Burnley's Jay Rodriguez. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Alisson saves from Burnley's Jay Rodriguez. Photo: Reuters

 

Liverpool would pay for not turning their dominance into a greater advantage. "It is tough to play against a side so well organised," Klopp said. "We created super chances, but there was one guy who wanted to deny us and that was Nick Pope. That left the door open for Burnley."

Liverpool still led thanks to Andy Robertson's 34th-minute header, but the visiting 'keeper's efforts enabled Jay Rodriguez to take advantage of a lapse in concentration after the second-half water break, pouncing on James Tarkowski's header to set up an entertaining climax in which Burnley came closest to victory.

The Halfway Line Newsletter

Get the lowdown on the Irish football scene with our soccer correspondent Daniel McDonnell and expert team of writers with our free weekly newsletter.

This field is required

Only the crossbar stopped Johann Gudmundsson inflicting Liverpool's first home Premier League defeat in three years. The Reds have still not lost a league game in their stadium for 58 fixtures. It is unlikely they have played much better in their previous 57.

Close

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah leaves Burnley's Ashley Westwood in his wake. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah leaves Burnley's Ashley Westwood in his wake. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah leaves Burnley's Ashley Westwood in his wake. Photo: Reuters

 

They were denied due to a combination of Pope's flexibility and their own wastefulness when the clock became the enemy, especially when Salah snatched at a chance in injury-time.

So Sean Dyche became the first visiting manager since Leicester City's Claude Puel to take a point from the venue. That was in January 2019. Like Klopp, Dyche could allow himself to imagine his side taking more from the game, pointing out that while his 'keeper kept his side competitive before the break, it was a more even contest in the second half.

"He [Pope] has been doing well all season. His biggest strength is he keeps calm if he does make a mistake," Dyche said. "I think he is improving. His dominance in the box is there for all to see."

Burnley may yet qualify for Europe, which would be a just reward for what is surely one of the most hard-working sides in the Premier League. This was a triumph for perseverance.

Close

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: PA

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: PA

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: PA

 

"I don't think there are any secrets. We're working as hard as we possibly can," said Pope, who clearly loves this stadium having made his first league start here in 2017 - another man-of-the-match display. It is easy to see how he arrived on Merseyside one clean sheet ahead of rival Alisson for the golden glove.

Klopp had cause to be satisfied going in 1-0 up at half-time, given he blooded two of his youngsters. Welsh teenager Neco Williams looked more comfortable in his preferred right-back role than when on the opposite wing in midweek, and exciting midfielder Curtis Jones has no confidence issues. Both got 68 minutes.

The substitutions and second-half drinks break may have contributed to Liverpool misjudging Phil Bardsley's long and high set-piece, allowing Tarkowski to head into Rodriguez's direction for an excellent finish after 69 minutes.

Nothing can or will take the shine off this title win, but Klopp still cut a frustrated figure as another shot at history - in this case becoming the first Premier League to win every home game - slipped away.

Liverpool must win all their remaining games to surpass Manchester City's 100-point record set two years ago. It is to the manager and players' credit that it still looks as though these ultimately meaningless games mean so much to them.

Telegraph

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


Most Watched





Privacy