Sunday 20 October 2019

Lallana form gives Klopp welcome lift for title chase

Liverpool 4 Burnley 2

Stop me if you can: Adam Lallana about to cross the ball despite the efforts of Burnley’s Ashley Westwood. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Stop me if you can: Adam Lallana about to cross the ball despite the efforts of Burnley’s Ashley Westwood. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

At a moment in the season when every action and statement is forensically observed and studied by rivals, Jurgen Klopp was not going to miss his opportunity.

"The message is, no one gets rid of us if we play like this," said the Liverpool manager.

"We had the perfect mixture of fighting the opponent, fighting the circumstances and playing football. That was really good and I liked it.

"We have no problem with confidence. We didn't have a problem after the Everton game (a goalless draw last Sunday).

"You (the media) make a big fuss if we score five, then we are the best attacking side in the world, and we score nil and then we have an offensive problem."

Klopp was speaking to reporters but might as well have been pointing directly at Pep Guardiola.

Burnley's Jeff Hendrick tussles with Andy Robertson. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Burnley's Jeff Hendrick tussles with Andy Robertson. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Liverpool had beaten Burnley, overcoming the concession of an early goal direct from a corner.

On such freakish setbacks ending title bids, opposition chants have been composed and recited for years.

However, the amusement and enthusiasm for Manchester City supporters - and anyone else hoping for an Anfield stumble - after Ashley's Westwood's set-piece beat Alisson was short-lived.

Liverpool reacted assuredly, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino scoring two goals apiece.

Burnley goalkeeper Thomas Heaton gets to the ball ahead of Mohamed Salah. Photo: PA
Burnley goalkeeper Thomas Heaton gets to the ball ahead of Mohamed Salah. Photo: PA

Klopp later declared Mohamed Salah man of the match, easing the Egyptian's disappointment at having failed to match Alan Shearer's record of 50 Premier League goals for one club in the fastest time.

The point gap is back to one. More importantly, Liverpool were close to their best in negotiating a potentially hazardous home fixture.

Sedate noon kick-offs are not known for quickening the pulse. The wind was howling, too.

After being mocked for a weather report at Goodison Park, Klopp wisely ignored the elements, especially as they played a role in Liverpool's third goal when Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton's clearance was caught in the gale.

Roberto Firmino's shot hit's the back of the Burnley net. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Roberto Firmino's shot hit's the back of the Burnley net. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Drifting

Most encouraging of all, Liverpool benefited from a virtuoso performance from a player whose Anfield career appeared to be drifting in his ongoing search for fitness.

Liverpool have been eagerly anticipating such a return for one of their much-missed England midfielders - a creative force capable of giving the Anfield title challenge a final push.

That man was billed as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The reality is Adam Lallana is more likely to meaningfully contribute over the coming months.

This was only Lallana's fourth league start this season, and before kick-off most were asking how and why he was preferred to Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri.

Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring Liverpool's third goal with Mohamed Salah. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring Liverpool's third goal with Mohamed Salah. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates

The answer, Klopp explained, was form on the training pitch.

Klopp's faith was validated as Lallana gave his sharpest performance in a Liverpool jersey for two years.

He inspired his side's two first-half goals and he departed on 77 minutes to a standing ovation.

It was Lallana's long diagonal pass to Salah which took out Burnley's midfield in the build-up to a 20th-minute equaliser, Firmino tapping in after Heaton failed to deal with the winger's cross.

More satisfying was the counter-press on Phil Bardsley, Lallana fist-pumping when his challenge on the edge of the Burnley penalty area fell directly to Salah, before Mane swerved in to ensure he scored in six consecutive Premier League home games.

This was symptomatic of Lallana's overall performance, knitting the midfield and attack together while consistently retrieving possession.

Burnley's lead was controversial, Liverpool 'keeper Alisson enraged that James Tarkowski was not penalised for pulling him to the ground when Westwood whipped in the set-play. The Brazilian was booked for the protests.

Liverpool's frustration could as easily have been directed to Joel Matip for inexplicably gifting the sixth-minute corner.

Heaton's mistake on 67 minutes led to the third, his clearance dropping to Salah.

As the winger rushed towards goal, Charlie Taylor's tackle fell into the gleeful path of Firmino for his second.

Liverpool should have had more before Burnley briefly threatened a comeback in injury time.

Ultimately, Johann Berg Gudmundsson's close-range effort impacted only on Liverpool's goal difference, Mane dribbling past Heaton to restore the two-goal deficit.

The 90 seconds preceding Liverpool's fourth were the only signs of anxiety on an otherwise professional afternoon, Klopp's side unconcerned at having to chase the champions again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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