Opinion: Burnley left with a strong sense of déjà vu after Liverpool defeat as missed chances prove costly
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How often have we seen the Clarets deliver an encouraging performance this season only to come away empty-handed? It’s happened time and time again.
It’s difficult to be too critical of Vincent Kompany’s men on this occasion. They executed a game plan very well against the table toppers and, on another day, with different circumstances, could have at least made things a bit more interesting.
That’s the problem though, isn’t it? It’s always another day. But when will that day come?
No-one expected Burnley to go to Anfield and get anything. In fact, a 3-1 defeat is pretty much par for the course this season when the Clarets have faced a side at the other end of the division. Just a couple of weeks ago they lost at the Etihad by the same scoreline. They suffered a 3-1 loss at the Emirates as well, so there was nothing overly surprising about the result.
But that doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. Far from it.
For the opening half an hour, the visitors were the better side. The record Anfield crowd was kept surprisingly quiet, with a hint of frustration even beginning to kick in as Burnley kept Liverpool well away from their own goal while offering a real threat in attack.
Zeki Amdouni misplaced a simple pass when teeing up Sander Berge on the edge of the box, before stand-in keeper Caoimhin Kelleher came off his line to deny Amdouni as he surged through on goal.
If any side looked like breaking the deadlock, it was Burnley.
But lo and behold, they went and shot themselves in the foot once again when they conceded yet another easily avoidable goal – which is something I’ve found myself writing far too often in recent weeks.
A corner was plonked into the danger zone – a tactic we’re seeing increasingly often against the Clarets – James Trafford came to claim it, got nowhere near it, gifting Diogo Jota the simplest of headers into the back of the unguarded net. 1-0 Liverpool.
All that early work was for nothing. As if getting a result at Anfield isn’t hard enough…
Burnley deserve stacks of credit though for the way they responded, because it would have been easy to fold and quickly ship a second, a third and so on.
But they didn’t. They rode the wave of Liverpool pressure and began to come back into the game once again, getting their reward in first-half stoppage-time when Dara O’Shea powered a bullet header into the top corner from Josh Brownhill’s corner.
Not only a nice way for O’Shea to notch his first Premier League goal, but also a pleasant surprise for us to be talking about set pieces for all the right reasons for a change.
I used the term déjà vu at the start of this piece and I’ll use it again for the start of the second-half, where the Clarets could easily have gone under after Liverpool restored their lead through Luis Diaz.
It was another soft goal to concede, a clearance ricocheting kindly to Harvey Elliott, whose cross deflected off the unfortunate Maxime Esteve straight to Diaz, who had the simple task of steering home from a couple of yards out.
Again, you’re expecting Liverpool to dominate from this point onwards and put lowly Burnley to the sword. But that’s not what transpired.
Instead, Kompany’s men created not one, not two, but three absolutely glorious opportunities to level for a second time, all in quick succession.
Ironically David Fofana, the hero of last week’s comeback against Fulham, was the main guilty party, squandering two one-on-ones. The first was well saved by Kelleher, but he guided the second wide of the far post. He simply had to score at least one of them, if not both.
Sandwiched in between was also a costly miss from Wilson Odobert, who skewed wide after Fofana’s initial effort had been blocked.
We know the Premier League script by now. You can’t afford to miss chances like that and not get punished, and a third duly arrived 10 minutes from time when Darwin Nunez glanced a clever header past Trafford.
Time is running out
Ultimately, that proved to be the difference on the day. All three of Liverpool’s strikers – who cost a combined £159m – got on the scoresheet. Whereas Burnley were unable to make the most of their openings, as good as they were. You get what you pay for, I guess.
As it was, the visitors were left with a feeling of ‘what might have been’ at the final whistle. Things could well have been different had Burnley been more ruthless in front of goal. But shoulda, woulda, coulda…
It doesn’t get any easier for the Clarets, who face a second title challenger in as many weeks when they host Arsenal at Turf Moor next week.
They will do so without their chief, at least not from the sidelines anyway, after Kompany received his third booking of the season – meeting the threshold for a one-match touchline ban.
What influence or impact that will have, we’ll see. But there needs to be a quick change in the direction of travel or Burnley’s fate will be sealed not before long.
Kompany refuses to give up and he’s right to do so. But the writing is very much on the wall.