Late substitute Diogo Jota secured the points to fire a Liverpool to the top of the Premier League table at Turf Moor. Making hard work of a match they dominated, after Paul Tierney (yes, him again) disallowed two goals, it wasn’t until the 90th minute that Liverpool added to the early strike by Darwin Nunez. A combination of wasteful finishing, and an inspired display by young Burnley goalkeeper Trafford, had frustrated Liverpool throughout but the Portuguese striker, with his 50th goal for the club, finally put the game to bed.
It was just six minutes in, that Nunez ended his goal drought, putting his side in front with a side-foot strike from the edge of the penalty box. Having been benched for the Arsenal game, he was one of several changes to the starting 11, with Harvey Elliot, Jarell Quansah and Ryan Gravenberch also picked for the Boxing Day fixture.
The opening goal set the pattern for the game. Liverpool dominated both possession and chances created. However, a second hit home by Cody Gakpo was disallowed mid-way through the half. Tierney saw a foul where not existed as Nunez challenged for the ball in the penalty area before it fell to the Dutchman. Jurgen Klopp, bemused and angry on the touchline, had further reason to be annoyed when, in the second half, an Elliot strike was also chalked off. VAR advised Tierney that Mo Salah was in an off-side position and interfering with the sight line of the goalkeeper.
It was following the second VAR incident that Burnley, and perhaps more significantly the home crowd, sensed their opportunity. Having survived the profligacy of Liverpool’s attack, Vincent Kompany urged his team forward and suddenly Liverpool looked nervous, lost control of the game, and an equaliser looked a distinct possibility. Wataru Endo, praised by Klopp post-match, was guilty of an horrendous error when playing a square ball in his final third. Fortunately Burnley, who’ve struggled to score goals all season, couldn’t capitalise and the home side’s best chance passed them by.
Moving into the final 15 minutes, Klopp made three subs, including introducing Dominik Szoboszlai. This change, along with Curtis Jones replacing Elliot, helped Liverpool retake control of the game and his final substitute – ‘the lad from Portugal’ – put an end to the contest just moments before added time. Trafford, who’d been Burnley’s best player, was finally beaten for the second time as Jota struck from a tight angle by rolling the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs.
Liverpool’s first fixture in the New Year is against a struggling Newcastle side at Anfield. By then, they may no longer top the Premier League table, depending upon Arsenal’s result v West Ham. Klopp meanwhile, was beaming in his post-match interview when reminded his team was top of the league as 2024. and a pivotal five months in his ‘new’ teams development, lay ahead.