Liverpool vs Burnley. Premier League.
Match report as Liverpool welcomed fans back to Anfield with a 2-0 victory against Burnley; Goals either side of half time from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane see off spirited Burnley; Reds stretch unbeaten league run to 12 games; Burnley start season with back-to-back defeats
Saturday 21 August 2021 20:12, UK
Liverpool welcomed fans back to Anfield by securing a second straight victory of the new Premier League campaign, but they were made to work for their 2-0 victory by a spirited Burnley.
Afterwards, Jurgen Klopp suggested the recent softening of refereeing was taking the game "10 to 15 years backwards" and likened some of the tackling to "wrestling".
Sean Dyche's side caused Liverpool plenty of problems, but the hosts showed their clinical edge in front of goal as Diogo Jota (18) headed Kostas Tsimikas' inch-perfect cross past Nick Pope to break the deadlock.
Liverpool, who saw a Mohamed Salah effort ruled out for offside by VAR towards the end of the first half, following a pass from youngster Harvey Elliott on his first Premier League start, were given a warning early in the second half when Ashley Barnes's strike was correctly ruled out by the offside flag, but it wasn't long before Klopp's side took firm control of the game.
And the points were eventually made safe when Sadio Mane finished off a fine team move to continue their perfect start to the season and extend Liverpool's unbeaten run in the Premier League to 12 matches, with Klopp saying after a memorable afternoon at Anfield, "I think all of our dreams were fulfilled today, atmosphere-wise".
For Burnley, despite a promising performance at times, they start the season with back-to-back defeats and have now lost five Premier League games in a row for the first time ever, leaving Sean Dyche with plenty to think about even at this early stage of the season.
Liverpool did not have things all their own way in the early stages at Anfield as Burnley started brightly.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was forced into a goal-line block to keep out Dwight McNeil's powerful low drive just before an offside flag cut short the move and Alisson was forced into action at his near post to keep out Chris Wood's goal-bound header.
However, it was Liverpool who took the lead in the 18th minute as all Burnley's hard work was undone by some poor defending.
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (9), Matip (7), Van Dijk (8), Tsimikas (8), Henderson (7), Keita (7), Mane (8), Jota (7), Elliott (7), Salah (7).
Subs: Thiago (n/a), Firmino (n/a), Gomez (n/a).
Burnley: Pope (6), Lowton (7), Mee (6), Tarkowski (6), Taylor (7), Gudmundsson (6), Brownhill (6), Cork (6), McNeil (7), Barnes (6), Wood (7).
Subs: Rodriguez (n/a), Pieters (n/a).
Man of the match: Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Jota was given the freedom of the penalty area by Ben Mee and James Tarkowski as he connected with Tsimikas' cross to guide a header past Nick Pope.
It seemed like Liverpool might kick on and take the game away from Burnley, but they were denied a second by VAR as Salah strayed into an offside position as he latched onto Elliott's pass before finishing past Pope.
Mane and Naby Keita saw efforts go off target as the hosts continued to search for a second goal, before a worrying moment for Alisson, who was beaten to the ball at the other end by Tarkowski, but the Burnley defender's header bounced wide.
Burnley did manage to put the ball in the Liverpool net shortly after the break via Barnes' finish, but again an assistant referee's flag was correctly raised for offside against the Burnley forward.
However, Liverpool grew into the half and began to take control as Mane had an attempt comfortably saved by Pope and he was also unable to turn the ball in at the far post following Virgil van Dijk's volley.
As Liverpool started to click through the gears, Salah saw his low strike kept out by a fine block from McNeil and Mane saw two efforts stopped by Pope.
However, the Senegalese wasn't to be denied again, firing home after being played in by Alexander-Arnold to double Liverpool's advantage.
The Reds tried to add to their lead as Salah shot wide and Alexander-Arnold was denied by Pope, while Alisson did well to thwart substitute Jay Rodriguez as Liverpool kept their clean sheet intact.
Sky Sports' Peter Smith:
Harvey Elliott became Liverpool's 10th youngest Premier League starter in Saturday's win over Burnley - but he didn't look out of place at all as Jurgen Klopp's side made it two wins from two.
The 18-year-old has repeatedly impressed on every step up in level he's made since he burst onto the scene three years ago at Fulham. And after starring for Blackburn in the Championship last season, where he recorded seven goals and 11 assists in 41 appearances, he looks set to make his mark in the Premier League this term.
Starting on the right of Liverpool's midfield three at Anfield, the left-footed youngster looked confident, composed and classy on the ball, drifting wide or tucking inside to make room to link up with Alexander-Arnold and repeatedly tried to set Salah free down that side.
Indeed, he thought he had an assist for Salah when he threaded a fine pass through Burnley's defensive line for the Egyptian to finish midway through the first half but an offside flag ruled the strike out. Elliott was involved in Liverpool's second, though, bringing down Virgil van Dijk's crossfield pass perfectly before feeding Alexander-Arnold to tee up Sadio Mane.
He was fouled twice inside the first 10 minutes, which illustrated how hard it was for Burnley to get to grips with him, and by the final whistle he'd won more free-kicks than any other player on the pitch. All that was missing from the performance was a finishing touch, with a couple of glimpses at goal evading him.
But he has shown his shooting quality in the past and Saturday's display confirmed he will be getting plenty more chances to impress in a Liverpool shirt this season…
"Harvey was part of this performance. Everybody wants to talk to me about Harvey and I understand absolutely – when an 18-year-old boy plays such a mature game I can understand why everyone was asking, but I was not surprised he played like this. That is exactly how he has trained now for six or seven weeks since we are back, since he is back from loan. Yes, it was a good."
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: "We always had to be ready for a proper fight and we were today. You saw these challenges with Barnes and Wood and Virgil and Joel. I'm not 100 per cent sure if [officials] are going in the right direction with these decisions. It's like we're going 10 to 15 years backwards. The rules are like they are, but you cannot defend these situations. That's how it makes the game really tricky.
"I don't think it's right, but I cannot decide these things. I heard about leaving the game flow, but now we have these situations. The second goal from Brentford [against Arsenal on the opening day] must be a foul - you cannot clip the arm of the goalkeeper and say, 'that's football'. I think maybe we have to think about it a second or a third time.
"The message now is let the game flow, but nobody exactly knows what that means. I like decisions that favour the offensive team, that's fine. But we have to stick to protecting the players. We cannot deny that. If you like that sort of thing, watch wrestling.
"In a lot of moments, we played a brilliant game without scoring. In all the other moments we had to fight incredibly hard. We won it and nobody got injured."
Burnley boss Sean Dyche: "I think the way we affected the game was good, particularly in the first half. I was pleased with that. We should have had a penalty in my opinion. In the middle of the pitch it's a foul but for some reason when it's Burnley we don't get them when they are in the box. We'll see if that balances itself out - but it's been six years and it hasn't.
"Joking apart, we came here on a tough day and I thought our performance was at least decent. We still know we've got to add to it, we still know we are working with a very limited group at the moment but a group that is definitely ready to compete on a weekly basis in the Premier League.
"They turned into the Liverpool you know for 20 minutes in the second half and they scored the second goal - but we kept going and our mentality was firm today and at the end we had a couple of chances.
"I trust these players implicitly, what they give us, it wasn't a lack of effort today or commitment. The organisation was good. We just got picked off a couple of times by a top side."
It was another all-action display from Liverpool's right full-back.
He was a constant threat going forward and his range of passing caused Burnley problems all afternoon.
He created seven chances in the game and an assist for Mane's second-half goal.
Since the start of 2018-19, Alexander-Arnold has registered 33 assists in the Premier League, a figure only Kevin De Bruyne can better in that time (34).
Up next for Liverpool is a firm test of their title credentials as they welcome European champions Chelsea to Anfield on Saturday, live on Sky Sports (kick off 5.30pm).
Meanwhile, Burnley are in Carabao Cup action on Wednesday with a trip to Newcastle (kick off 7.45pm) before hosting Leeds in the Premier League next Sunday, live on Sky Sports (kick off 2pm).