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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Liverpool hurt by familiar failings as Klopp struggles to see the positives in draw with Burnley

Plenty of possession and scoring chances, but a profligacy in front of goal and defensive frailties get punished by Burnley.

Jurgen Klopp cut a frustrated figure during Liverpool's draw with Burnley at Anfield on Saturday. Alex Livesey / Getty Images
Jurgen Klopp cut a frustrated figure during Liverpool's draw with Burnley at Anfield on Saturday. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

There was an illogical equality to the scoreline. Liverpool had 35 shots, courtesy of nine different players. Burnley had five, and a mere 28 per cent of possession.

The points were nevertheless shared. Jurgen Klopp struggled to reconcile the reality of it with the figures and the emotions one of the more deceptive draws produced.

“It feels strange, it feels wrong but it is a fact we drew,” the Liverpool manager said. “I still don’t feel any positivity in this moment.”

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A week has produced more negatives. If Liverpool can dismiss their 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City as an aberration, this bore more similarities to Wednesday’s draw with Sevilla.

Once again, they conceded the first goal in careless fashion, dominated, came to rue their wastefulness in front of goal and might have sieved a late decider.

For Luis Muriel’s injury-time miss, read Ben Mee’s twin headers, one cleared off the line by Joel Matip, the other saved superbly by Simon Mignolet.

“That would have been typical for us if they had scored,” Klopp said.

Yet the scoreline felt typical of the new Burnley. Famously bad travellers last season, they have acquired a resilience. They had already won at Chelsea and drawn at Tottenham Hotspur. They were close to securing another famous scalp.

Underdogs could nevertheless pride themselves on the resilience of unheralded players. Goalkeeper Nick Pope, making his first Premier League start, did superbly to touch Dominic Solanke’s late volley on to the bar.

“When the moment of truth came, he delivered two excellent saves,” said his manager, Sean Dyche. Klopp argued that Mee had fouled Mohamed Salah in the penalty box seconds earlier.

Yet such was Liverpool’s profligacy that complaints should be directed within their own ranks. Daniel Sturridge had seven attempts. Philippe Coutinho had six, none even finding the target.

There was evidence of artistry and commitment alike from the Brazilian Barcelona wanted as he began for the first time this season. A long-range specialist let fly from distance time and again, but without finding the top corner in trademark, spectacular fashion. Dyche, meanwhile, argued Burnley largely kept Liverpool to long-range efforts.

And so their sole goal came from Salah. If this was a test of how Liverpool would cope without the suspended Sadio Mane, it produced contradictory results.

Salah was signed to reduce the reliance on the talismanic Senegalese. His fourth goal in his last four games at Anfield seemed a classic Klopp strike: an incisive forward pass, courtesy of Emre Can, was met by a winger making a diagonal burst into the box. But since Mane joined, Liverpool have won 66 per cent of games with him in the starting side and just 40 without.

Similarly, Liverpool could cite the chances as proof of strength in depth after Klopp made seven changes. The result lent itself to other conclusions. If his decisions did not always pay off, Dyche seems in a golden run of form. For the second successive game, a man he brought into the side scored.

He recalled Scott Arfield and the midfielder struck. It was a fine goal from Burnley’s perspective, but an awful one from Liverpool’s. Trent Alexander-Arnold lost a header to the diminutive Robbie Brady. Both centre-backs went to challenge Chris Wood, and neither got the ball, allowing it to reach Arfield.

Klopp looked furious. “We could have defended much better,” he said. “I am not in a perfect mood.”

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