As Jurgen Klopp spoke when the floodlights started to dim at Anfield following the 2-1 win over Burnley, he used the words ‘ugly win’ during the interview and the German manager was correct. This was not a match or victory which will be remembered by Liverpool fans for the quality of the performance, far from it. However, come the end of the campaign, it could be remembered as being one of the most crucial wins of the season.
Liverpool have been roundly criticised for their inability to defeat teams in the bottom half of the table. This problem is not new and has been thrown at Liverpool before but this season especially, it seems to have taken centre stage as to why Liverpool are not competing for the title. If Klopp’s team had defeated Burnley, Bournemouth, Hull, Swansea and Leicester, as they were expected to do, the Reds would have 70 points, 4 more than current league leaders, Chelsea. It’s easy to look back and pick out matches Liverpool ‘should’ have won and football doesn’t work like that but it does highlight how costly the defeats have been and the club could not afford another one against Burnley on Sunday.
In truth, Liverpool were poor for much of the match and Burnley looked more threatening when they had the ball. The Clarets caused Liverpool plenty of problems at the back, especially in the first-half and not just on the break. Sean Dyche had clearly instructed his players to expose the channel between Ragnar Klaven and James Milner and it worked for his team. With two players up-front, Burnley prevented Liverpool from playing out from the back, forcing them to send long balls down the pitch and these were easily gobbled up by Michael Keane and Ben Mee at the heart of the Burnley defence.
The Anfield crowd were becoming frustrated and with Burnley a goal to the good heading towards half-time, Giorgino Wijnaldum popped up with Liverpool’s first shot on target and it led to the equalising goal. Liverpool did not deserve to go in at the interval at 1-1 and a vast improvement was expected in the second half.
Although there was a slight improvement, which was not difficult considering the poor display in the first 45 minutes, it was not enough to take control of the game. With limited options on the bench, Klopp didn’t have the personal to make game-changing substitutions and alter Liverpool’s style of play or introduce a ‘Plan B’. Klopp has often been criticised for not having a ‘Plan B’ but how can you change the style of play without having the players to do it?
Despite the poor performance, Emre Can scored a cracking long range goal on 61 minutes, which was enough to seal maximum points for the Reds and open a cushion on the teams below them in the race for the top four places. Ultimately, as the season moves towards a close, winning matches is what becomes most important, as opposed to performance. An ugly win is not something you usually hear about this Liverpool team. However, perhaps this match has seen the Reds turn a corner this season, at just the right time.
Ten ugly wins, between now and the end of the season, will be enough to see Liverpool qualify for the Champions League.
Watch Jurgen Klopp’s post-match press conference below.