Darwin Nunez ends goal drought to help Liverpool to victory at Burnley

By Sports Desk December 26, 2023

Striker Darwin Nunez ended a 12-match goal drought to help fire Liverpool back to the top of the table with a 2-0 victory at Burnley.

The Uruguay international, who had not scored a Premier League goal since the end of October, made the crucial breakthrough in the first half before substitute Diogo Jota marked his first appearance in a month with the clincher in the 90th minute – his 50th goal for the Reds.

While it was in most respects a comfortable victory – they had two goals disallowed and also hit the woodwork – for a team registering five changes from the exhausting draw with Arsenal, Jurgen Klopp’s team made things more difficult than they had to be against opponents who have now lost nine of 10 home games.

Burnley boss Vincent Kompany famously put a spanner in the Liverpool works when his long-range strike against Leicester tipped the 2018-19 title race in Manchester City’s favour, but there were no such heroics from his struggling team, whose cause was not helped by wins for Luton and Nottingham Forest.

Their best hope was to take chances when they came and hope the visitors had an off day but they were their own worst enemy in the final third, making poor decisions, giving the ball away and being robbed of possession too easily.

In only the fifth minute, Zeki Amdouni launched a four-on-three but then sliced wide from 25 yards to waste their numerical advantage.

That was symptomatic of their shortcomings and they were punished immediately as from Liverpool’s next attack Cody Gakpo’s cutback picked out Nunez whose first-time finish curled the ball inside the far post from 25 yards.

It was just reward for his endeavour as he had sparked the move down the left and picked himself up off the turn after beating Dara O’Shea to rejoin the attack.

The procession began with Mohamed Salah failing with three attempts – one clipping the crossbar – and Gakpo and Wataru Endo also not able to add to the score.

Gakpo, one of the better performers out on the left, thought he had doubled the lead when he fired home a rebound from one of James Trafford’s eight first-half saves but referee Paul Tierney ruled Nunez had fouled Charlie Taylor.

Liverpool continued to plug away but when a simple one-two between Harvey Elliott and Ryan Gravenberch saw the latter side-foot home early in the second half, the offside Salah was in Trafford’s eye-line and Tierney ruled it out after a VAR referral.

That was Burnley’s cue to fight back, with a Jordan Beyer shot deflected over and Sander Berge effort bundled well wide.

Burnley’s worst miss saw Johan Gudmundsson plant a far-post free header over a half-empty goal, although fellow substitute Jacob Bruun Larsen should have done better when Endo passed straight to him 30 yards out.

The improvement of Liverpool’s midfield by the arrival of Dominik Szoboszlai and Curtis Jones saw the former unable to turn in the latter’s header at the far post.

Liverpool’s attempts to manage the game with Newcastle at home on New Year’s Day offered Burnley some encouragement and Trent Alexander-Arnold whistled a left-footed shot just wide to remind them of the threat the visitors still carried.

That was underlined by Jota firing home an angled shot in the 90th minute and Klopp’s fist pumps in front of a travelling support singing “Liverpool top of the league” showed how important that goal was.

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