20 Aug Burnley 2-0 Liverpool
Burnley burst Liverpool’s early-season bubble with a 2-0 victory which proved you do not have to have much of the ball to be effective.
The Clarets converted two of their three shots on target, with Sam Vokes grabbing his first Premier League goal inside two minutes and Andre Gray doubling the lead before half-time.
There was no rousing comeback from Liverpool like the one they produced last weekend at Arsenal to win 4-3 after going behind and, despite dominating possession, they never looked like scoring.
That was partly down to their hosts’ dogged determination to hold onto their lead but largely due to a lack of cohesion and penetration in the final third.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were laboured in their build-up, particularly in the first half, and careless and wasteful in possession.
They were punished after just 98 seconds when Ragnar Klavan’s crossfield pass posed some difficulty for Nathaniel Clyne and he gave the ball away, with Gray quick to pick out Vokes who turned to smash home from the edge of the penalty area.
The Wales international missed the first half of Burnley’s previous top-flight campaign with a knee injury which hampered his progress when he eventually came back but, after a confidence-boosting Euro 2016, the big frontman took Burnley’s first Premier League goal against Liverpool – and their first in the league in six matches – well.
Liverpool proceeded to huff and puff through midfield into the final third with very little energy or dynamism and even less reward.
Striker Daniel Sturridge, making his first appearance of the season after a hip injury ruled him out last weekend, played in a predominantly right-sided forward role and did not get his first sight of goal until the half-hour when he drilled wide of the far post from the inside-right channel.
The England international’s next contribution seven minutes before the break was more devastating but for all the wrong reasons as he lost possession on the edge of Burnley’s penalty area.
However, he was not solely to blame as Klavan missed his challenge on the charging Steven Defour, the Clarets’ club-record signing making his debut, and Gray easily skipped past weak tackles from Dejan Lovren and the recovering Klavan to stroke a past Simon Mignolet.
The last time Burnley scored more than one against Liverpool was in 1973 – a run of 20 matches – but they are a different team now and it was no more than they deserved.
Midfielder James Milner, who replaced the under-fire Alberto Moreno, looked understandably uncomfortable as a stand-in left-back. But the problems were further upfield, where an ineffective midfield failed to make the most of their possession.
Burnley, by contrast, were more efficient and clinical with the ball, and patient, tenacious and committed without it, which was most of the time.
The statistics showed Liverpool had 81 per cent possession and attempted 24 shots, but with only five on target and none which really troubled Tom Heaton.
Marko Grujic, a late substitute for Adam Lallana, forced Heaton into his first real save in the 79th minute, but Burnley ran out comfortable winners.
Sean Dyche’s side are up and running with their first points of the season. For Klopp, it is back to the drawing board.