Burnley storm Anfield fortress to shatter Liverpool's 68-game record


After 68 games, 55 wins, 13 draws and almost four years, fortress Anfield has finally been stormed. Burnley were the only team to take points off Liverpool at home last season. Now they recorded a still greater feat, Ashley Barnes’ late penalty making them the first team since Crystal Palace in April 2017 to take three points here.

Last month, Burnley registered their first top-flight win over Arsenal since 1974. Now came a first win at Anfield since the year Bill Shankly retired and the focus on Liverpool’s plight should not deflect from the way Sean Dyche keeps on chalking up historic feats with Burnley. A pragmatist may also savour the fact they leapfrogged Brighton to ease their relegation fears.

For Liverpool, though, this was an unwanted slice of history. For the first time since Gérard Houllier’s team failed to score in their final five games of the 1999-2000 campaign, they have gone four league matches without a goal. Jürgen Klopp’s side have not scored for 438 minutes in the league and taken three points from a possible 15, going from title favourites to a team who could drop out of the top four before Thursday’s visit to Tottenham.

Perhaps it was fitting that they were condemned to defeat by Barnes. He earned and scored the penalty, winning his running battle with Fabinho by evading the Brazilian, hooking the ball over Alisson and being brought down by the goalkeeper. Barnes coolly slotted in his spot-kick. But tempers can flare when he is around. He had dual responsibilities, an irritant to Fabinho and Thiago Alcântara alike. He got the game’s first booking for an agricultural challenge on the summer signing. He riled Klopp, too.

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The night’s abiding image of the Liverpool manager came at half-time when he aimed a few choice words and gestured angrily at Dyche as both departed down the tunnel. Their players were delayed on the pitch as VAR determined if Fabinho’s little kick at Barnes merited a red card. Mike Dean’s initial verdict, a booking, was upheld.

Yet much of Liverpool’s frustration stemmed from the defiance of Burnley. Their efforts were unstinting, their organisation matched by their determination.

“What a shift by the lads,” Barnes said. And they had their holy trinity at the back: Nick Pope, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski. Burnley have only conceded five goals in the 11 games they have started together and the surprise, given their flawlessness otherwise, was that the captain gifted Liverpool their best chance.

Mee’s attempted back-pass turned into a hideous miscue, Divock Origi raced on to it and bent a shot past Pope. It rebounded back off the bar and straight to the goalkeeper. Origi had been granted an unexpected chance, a first league start of the season, but this was a night to support theories that his golden 2019 was a glorious aberration. He struggled. Not for the first time, Liverpool must rue the fact Diogo Jota got injured deep into a Champions League dead rubber. Once again, Klopp’s lack of trust in Takumi Minamino was apparent.

His gamble of selecting Origi, and leaving Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah on the bench, backfired. If he had intended to save them for Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Manchester United, each was summoned for the final half-hour. Indeed, Salah’s first notable action was to draw a fine save from Pope, following a surge from his own half by Gini Wijnaldum, who was deputising as captain for the injured Jordan Henderson.

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But Salah was simply joining the club. Pope had saved twice from Origi. He had denied Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. He had held an effort from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Meanwhile, Xherdan Shaqiri arrowed a shot wide, Sadio Mané blazed over and Firmino was off target. Somehow, in a frantic finale, Firmino diverted Alexander-Arnold’s shot towards goal and a defender deflected it wide.

But while Liverpool had 27 shots, taking their tally to 87 since Mané scored their last league goal, they were not at their blistering best. They have not been since the 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace. “We were not sharp enough,” Wijnaldum accepted. The paradox of their strange impotence is that they remain the division’s top scorers but only they and Leeds are yet to score in it in 2021. Burnley had been the third scoreless team until Barnes intervened.

His goal sealed a shock result, but there was evidence it had been coming. Their only scorer in their previous seven away games had been Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but they had ambition and a threat. Alisson made a fine stop from Barnes, redeeming himself after spilling Robbie Brady’s cross. The substitute Johann Berg Gudmundsson timed his run into the box to meet Dwight McNeil’s centre and shot just wide. No matter. Barnes ensured that, after 1,369 days, Liverpool finally experienced a league defeat at Anfield again.



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