Liverpool passed one of the sternest tests of any title challenge by earning a comfortable 3-0 away win over Burnley, even though they required a slice of good luck to send them on their way.
Once a freak Chris Wood own goal gifted Jurgen Klopp’s side the lead, goals from Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino ensured that last year’s runners-up would maintain their 100 per cent start and remain at the top of the league.
The first was fortunate. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deep cross only took a slight deflection off Wood, but it was enough to change the ball’s course and drop it over Nick Pope’s head. Out of nothing, Liverpool were ahead.
A second quickly followed. Ben Mee is not prone to costly mistakes, but his misplaced pass into the feet of Firmino would prove fatal. The Brazilian slipped in Mané, who applied a cool finish past Pope.
From thereon, the three points always looked likely to be heading back to Merseyside. Firmino made sure of that with 10 minutes remaining, starting and finishing a flowing Liverpool move by arrowing into the far corner.
Liverpool get lucky, then show their class
Klopp’s side were often accused of being ‘lucky’ during last season’s run-in. It was a flawed argument based on a selective memories at best, but you need fortune on your side to win league titles and luck gave Liverpool a commanding two-goal lead here.
Wood’s deflection and Mee’s mistake were the type of freak incidents that, in all their pre-match preparation, Burnley could not have accounted for. But what followed was a commanding Liverpool performance,
Burnley wonder what might have been
It was harsh on Burnley. After a contentious late penalty robbed them of two points at Molineux last week, Sean Dyche will be left wondering whether his side could have taken a point from this game if not for those two key moments.
The defeat takes a little shine off a positive start and brings Ashley Barnes’ scoring run to an end, but Dyche’s side have shown enough in these first few weeks to suggest that relegation will be comfortably avoided.
Firmino in fine fettle once again
While Mané and Mohamed Salah have shared the majority of Liverpool’s goals in these opening weeks of the new season, the third man in Klopp’s three has earned most of the plaudits.
Firmino was rarely at his best last year and arguably the least impressive of the trio. But, even after a summer at the Copa America with Brazil, he is approaching top form again, as demonstrated by his relentless energy, tireless work ethic and a 50th Premier League goal.
Klopp’s players pass physical test
This Turf Moor win did not come at the same cost for Liverpool as the last. Back in December, Joe Gomez suffered a broken leg in a 3-1 victory, with Klopp left to grumble about Burnley’s physicality.
The pitch was not as wet this time, the atmosphere not a febrile and Burnley did not seem to intimidate Klopp’s side as much as on their last visit. Jordan Henderson was substituted with a knock, but Liverpool otherwise emerged unscathed.
First clean sheet eases defensive fears
There has been some concern about Liverpool’s defence at the start of this season and much of it was justified. Newly-promoted Norwich tested them far too many times at Anfield, while Southampton created enough chances to earn a point a week later.
But last weekend’s display against Arsenal was far more assured and here, Adrian could celebrate a shut-out at half time. It was Liverpool’s first clean sheet since Champions League final.