Klopp cited the need for fresh legs as a reason for including the youngsters, but it was also a clever psychological decision by the manager to launch Williams into his right-back role. The 19-year-old struggled as a makeshift left-back at Brighton mid-week when he was retired at half-time, and the recall served as proof of faith in due course. Williams and Jones have both paid off their manager’s trust. The young midfielder’s ability to find space and time his passes into the penalty area was a key element of Liverpool’s early dominance. But for Pope, Klopp’s team would have established a dominant lead and Mohamed Salah would have reached their last Liverpool milestone in the meantime.
The Egyptian international needs one more goal to become the first Liverpool player since Roger Hunt in 1965-66 to score 20 league goals in three successive seasons for the club. His Hunt World Cup teammate, the late Jack Charlton, remembered a minute’s silence before kick-off. Salah almost got it from Liverpool’s first incisal attack. Joe Gomez left Robertson with a superb cross pass and only a perfectly synchronized intervention by Kevin Long prevented Liverpool’s top scorer from converting at point blank range. Another Gomez delivery led to Salah’s first shot at the target. Long’s head clearance fell to Salah, who swapped passes with Roberto Firmino before heading to the upper corner at 12 yards. Pope jumped to his left and returned the ball to safety with an excellent save.
The Burnley goalkeeper started the game by leading Alisson 14-13 clean sheets in the race for the Golden Gloves price, but a 15th still seemed like a tall order at Anfield. The pope foiled Jones with a weak stop after Firmino missed a center from Robertson. Jones was refused by Phil Bardsley following an exceptional one touch movement around the visitors’ penalty area and Pope again thwarted Salah when Sadio Mané released him on goal. From Robertson’s resulting corner, however, resistance was ultimately broken. Fabinho floated a delightful center in the area after Burnley treated the initial center and Robertson, left unattended after his corner duties, entered a ghost to send an arched head beyond Pope and inside the distant pole. It was a finish that any world class striker from Liverpool would have been proud of.
The visitors had started threatening at this point, especially on set pieces, and Rodriguez should at least have tested Alisson when Bardsley’s ball over the ball caught Liverpool’s defense. The attacker, however, drew his wide oblique shot.
The pope made another superb stop at halftime to beat Mane’s powerful command after the Senegalese international turned Long. A few minutes after the restart, the Burnley goalkeeper was beaten by the weak arrival of Firmino but saved by the post. Jones could have brought the daylight between the teams when he was fired by Salah, but opened a wide left-footed shot.
It turned out to be a costly failure when Burnley, without warning and struggling to stem the tide of Liverpool, equalized with a fine goal from Rodriguez. Bardsley sent a free kick to the bottom of the surface of Liverpool where the impressive head of James Tarkowski fell in an inviting way for the attacker. Rodriguez still had a lot to do with the ball turning far from goal and Virgil van Dijk was approaching, but he swept a clinical finish in the bend inside Alisson’s right post. Klopp had made a double substitution as Liverpool prepared to defend the free kick but nothing could affect the quality of Rodriguez’s arrival.
Burnley’s replacement Gudmundsson should have ended Liverpool’s proud undefeated home record with three minutes left when Alisson put Ashley Westwood in the crossover. Gudmundsson, who had escaped a risky challenge on Robertson in his own area moments earlier, was unscored on the penalty spot but hit the crossbar with the Brazilian goalkeeper beaten.