LONDON: Jurgen Klopp’s calculated gamble on team rotation paid off as a deliberately weakened Liverpool won 2-1 at Burnley to maintain the pressure on third-placed Manchester United.
Klopp was delighted, saying: “A very difficult game, three fixtures are really difficult to take. Did we deserve to win? I don’t care. We got the three points. Six points in two days – I’ve never had that before.
“I like rotation, I love the quality of my squad and I am really pleased. It was not fantastic football but it was a fantastic attitude. Today it wasn’t possible to play brilliantly but it was an open game, we had a massive setback with the equaliser but we changed it again – we haven’t done that too often this year.”
More reason for Liverpool positivity has been provided by the club’s record purchase of Dutchman Virgil van Dijk who will not only provide a welcome and long-awaited injection of defensive security for Liverpool but underline their strength in depth at the fulcrum of the season.
They went into action against Burnley defending a 15-match unbeaten run, albeit without 17-goal Mo Salah who may be missing for two weeks with a knee injury.
Mignolet was also captain on his return among seven changes as Klopp rotated his entire squad with injured Salah and Coutinho absent altogether and Roberto Firmino on the subs’ bench.
Klopp would have been thinking not only about the effects of last Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Leicester but the next Anfield tests against Everton in the FA Cup and then Manchester City in the league.
Burnley were the better team in the first half. Mignolet saved easily from Scott Arfield who also shot wide from the edge of the penalty area. Sadio Mane wasted a rare Liverpool opportunity on the counter-attack.
Early in the second half however Mane, the only starter of Liverpool’s ‘Fab Four’ swivelled brilliantly to shoot Liverpool ahead. Klopp made no secret of his delight as he celebrated in the technical area.
Minutes later Mane was substituted by Firmino. In his absence Johan Gudmundsson equalised but Burnley were on terms only for a matter of minutes before Dejan Lovren provided the assist and Ragnar Klavan headed Liverpool’s winner.
Burnley protested in vain that Klavan had been offside before scoring his first Premier goal.
United on target
Manchester United showed brighter form than earlier over the holiday in a 2-0 win over Everton with goals from Antony Martial and Jesse Lingard. Outstanding Paul Pogba provided assists for both second-half goals.
Huddersfield are four games without a win after three draws were followed by a 3-0 defeat at Leicester. David Wagner’s team collapsed in the second half to goals from Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Marc Albrighton.
Portugal midfielder Adrien Silva made his debut as a substitute for Leicester, four months after his transfer last summer was refused by FIFA when the paperwork arrived 14 seconds too late.
Mark Hughes could be the next Premier League managerial casualty after Stoke’s 1-0 home defeat by Newcastle. Fans booed Hughes off the pitch at the final whistle after earlier jeering poor Xherdan Shaqiri when he was substituted. The decisive goal was scored by Newcastle’s Stoke old boy Ayoze Perez.