“The message from today is that nobody gets rid of us,” smiled Jurgen Klopp. Not Manchester City as Liverpool reduced the gap to a solitary point. Not Burnley, either, who took a second lead of the season against Liverpool and suffered another defeat. It was a demonstration of character and quality. “We had the perfect mixture of fighting the opponent and playing football,” Klopp said.
Context made it better. Liverpool had failed to score in three of their previous four games. They had drawn five of seven. They trailed in a manner that left a feeling of injustice. They got, in Klopp’s words, “a brilliant result.”
There were four goals and four seasons in one day, a turnaround in scoreline and emotions. Liverpool ended smiling in the sunshine. They felt more vibrant in a comeback forged by energy. They created havoc with their running. They were epitomised by two fervent pressers. Klopp recalled Adam Lallana and a fit-again Roberto Firmino. Each excelled.
The fit-again Firmino had gone six games without a goal. Irrepressible, he delivered a brace. So did Sadio Mane, who scored for the sixth consecutive league match at Anfield. There was an odd man out in the front three, but Klopp said: “Mo Salah was the best player on the pitch and he didn’t score.” Salah played a part in three goals and brought a winning brightness.
So did Lallana. Klopp was criticised for bringing on the Englishman against Everton. Lallana has not scored in 22, injury-hit months and has gone from pivotal player to bit-part figure. Yet he played as though the last two years never happened. Something of a bete noire for sections of the Liverpool support, Lallana left to a standing ovation.
Yet a vindicated Klopp has always valued his differing attributes. “He is always good on the ball but he is an aggressive boy,” he said. Each was apparent. Lallana was involved in the move for the equaliser, a tap-in for Firmino, set up by Salah. The elusive Egyptian made a burst to the byline and delivered a cross that squirmed out of Tom Heaton’s grasp.
The second began with Lallana’s flying block. “The counter press is a game-changer,” Klopp added. “It didn’t look really promising until he jumped in.” The ball rebounded to Salah and, though he was challenged by Charlie Taylor, it fell to Mane to curl in a shot. The Senegalese should have had a hat-trick, somehow hitting the bar from three yards, but did strike twice as he scored for the sixth consecutive home league game. Mane then clinched victory on the counter-attack in stoppage time.
Firmino had already completed his double when Salah latched on to Heaton’s poor kick and advanced on goal. Taylor challenged him but Liverpool’s penalty appeals were rendered irrelevant when the Brazilian swept the loose ball into the net.
Bringing back Heaton had been the catalyst for Burnley’s 2019 revival, but this represented a dreadful day for the goalkeeper. He was partly culpable for each of Firmino’s double. “You can’t give away three goals,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche.
His side led in freak fashion, and not merely because it was Ashley Westwood’s first goal since 2016. The midfielder scored direct from a corner. As the ball curled in, Alisson was boxed in and blocked off by James Tarkowski and then booked for his protests by referee Andre Marriner. “Usually it would have been disallowed,” added Klopp.
Substitute Johann Berg Gudmundsson also struck in stoppage time, but it was a third consecutive defeat for Burnley, who were dragged back into trouble by Saturday's results elsewhere. The vote of confidence came from Klopp. Will Burnley stay up? “Of course,” he replied.