More agony on the road for the Clarets
Burnley went in front at Anfield yesterday but it was a familiar story for us on the road as Liverpool came back to beat us 2-1 and in doing so they condemned us to our 12th Premier League away defeat in 14 games.
And so the story continues; Burnley’s search for a first away win in the top league since Danny Ings scored the only goal against Aston Villa two years ago.
All defeats are difficult to take, but this one more so given how well we played. This is nothing like the Burnley team that couldn’t cope with Chelsea in the first away game of the season and certainly nothing like the team that all but surrendered at places such as Leicester, Southampton and West Brom.
No, this Burnley team yesterday did not deserve that defeat in any way. This was one of our best away performances in the Premier League, and I don’t just mean this season. We played so well right from the start and Liverpool will know just how fortunate they were to get anything from the game let alone all three points.
It’s four weeks since we last played a Premier League game at home; only another three weeks to wait for the next one. So, back on our travels it was for, at least, one of the shorter trips of the season and everything ahead of the game was just about fine, a good pub stop with a decent pint and food although the stroll through Stanley Park came as the rain started to come down which curtailed the walk round the new look Anfield.
This is not one of the better places for away supporters. We were reasonably lucky with our seats yesterday but I wouldn’t like to be on the front few rows and I won’t even comment on the situation at the back of the stand where the view is dreadful.
The players were warming up with the news that the team was as I’d suggested in the match preview, showing three changes from that beaten at Swansea. Tom Heaton, recovered from illness, and Ashley Barnes, after serving a one match ban, were both back at the expense of Paul Robinson and Sam Vokes. There was also a change on the left of midfield with Scott Arfield preferred to Robbie Brady.
Tommy Docherty once said that you get nothing at Anfield other than a cup of tea. It’s been like that on many occasions for Burnley too but I was fortunate to have seen the win there in the 1974/75 season and I also saw league draws in 1968/69 and 1969/70, the latter a 3-3 draw in a game where we came from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 with three goals in thirteen minutes.
We’d only scored two goals there since that draw. Ian Brennan scored in that 1974 win and Peter Noble netted a League Cup goal there a season later. They had both been highlighted as the last Burnley players to score at Anfield.
That is no longer the case. After a terrific start, we were a goal up in the seventh minute through Ashley Barnes. It had been an amazing start. Andre Gray was causing them lots of problems and then came a quite outstanding goal. The two central midfielders Joey Barton and Jeff Hendrick linked up and got the ball out to Matt Lowton. His inch perfect ball into the box was met by Barnes who slid in to fire home right footed at the far post.
We’d taken the lead and when everything calmed down I’m sure there were Burnley supporters who wondered whether we’d scored too early. I don’t think you can ever do that but I did think that we had a massive 80 minutes plus on our hands against a side that score goals more easily than any other team in the league.
Within no time they flashed a ball across our box that thankfully no one was able to get on the end of, but in truth they didn’t really offer too much at all and as the first half progressed we were certainly the more composed and more assured team. We were better than they were. We had more opportunities than they did.
Barnes saw another effort go wide with thankfully the assistant coming to his rescue in correctly flagging him offside. Gray gave them no end of problems. We were excellent in the midfield and there always looked to be a chance of us creating an opportunity for a second goal.
It certainly wasn’t one way traffic. There was one first half spell when Liverpool won a few corners. We dealt with them well and when the board went up for one extra minute at the end of the first half we were more than deserving of our lead.
It’s become a pattern unfortunately this season and once more we conceded in stoppage time. A Divock Origi ball in from the left didn’t look as though it would cause us any problems but Ben Mee slipped, the ball hit him in the stomach and dropped kindly for Georginio Wijnaldum who took his time to score from close range.
There was barely time to restart. It was all square again and as our players trooped off at half time that goal had certainly flattened the away section of the Anfield Road end. What should have been an enjoyable half time interval discussing our excellent performance and our 1-0 lead was, instead, a time to reflect again on what might have been and what was likely to be a difficult 45 minutes to follow.
I think Liverpool will probably say they played better in the second half than they did in the first. That may be so but they will have to consider themselves very fortunate to have won the game. The winner came from an excellent strike from Emre Can from distance that just shaved the post as it went in to Heaton’s left. It was only their second attempt on target and they hadn’t really caused us too many problems at all up to that point in the second half.
They didn’t afterwards either as Burnley eventually pushed and pushed for an equaliser. Brady came on for Boyd as we looked to get back into the game and Vokes replaced Gray with ten minutes to go. We gave it a real go. We had half chances with Barnes seeing one goal bound effort blocked after we’d got the ball in from the right.
The home fans had gone so quiet they gave the impression they were walking alone while the Burnley fans roared on their team. Some might suggest that Liverpool sat back. That was not the case, they were pushed back by the Clarets and it was only in the dying minutes that they did get the ball upfield when only Heaton prevented what would have been a very unfair third.
With just under a minute of normal time remaining, Sean Dyche gave Dan Agyei his first bit of Premier League football. Like Aiden O’Neill earlier in the season his debut coming against Liverpool.
He was in the box when the one last chance came. Stephen Ward took a throw on the left which was headed on by Vokes. The one again hugely impressive Michael Keane headed on for Lowton but the ball just wouldn’t come down and his effort went just over the bar.
That was it, another Anfield defeat. Just like all but two of the other away games this season we headed home with nothing to show for it in terms of points, the only positive words being that we are nearer to breaking that away duck.
I don’t know whether we are or not. With only five away games left now it might well be that we don’t win one. But, whether we do or not, I am absolutely certain we will end the season with more than enough points to ensure we are still here next season. I’ve thought that for some time and yesterday’s performance, despite the result, has done nothing other than to strengthen that belief.
Just one more away game before we return home for two games in four days at the beginning of April. That’s Sunderland next week. There are absolutely no guarantees, there never are, but if we play anything like as well as we did yesterday then the Mackems will not be good enough against us.
Let’s hope we do. After this performance our players deserve an away win and there is no doubt this is the league we want to be in.
Looking at the Premier League right now, we’ve played 13 of the other clubs in the Championship since winning promotion in 2000. It’s visiting the other six that makes it very special I always think. Love or loathe the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. Playing in a league with regular fixtures at their grounds is where we surely all want Burnley to be.
The teams were;
Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mané, Divock Origi (Lucas Leiva 79), Philippe Coutinho (Ben Woodburn 60). Subs not used: Loris Karius, Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, Harry Wilson, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Yellow Cards: Emre Can, Adam Lallana.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Robbie Brady 73), Jeff Hendrick, Joey Barton, Scott Arfield (Dan Agyei 90), Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray (Sam Vokes 80). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Ashley Westwood.
Yellow Cards: Ben Mee, Joey Barton.
Referee: Craig Pawson (Sheffield).
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