Liverpool go top of the league as Nunez and Jota strike at Burnley

Match reportLiverpool go top of the league as Nunez and Jota strike at Burnley

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By Chris Shaw

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Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League as goals from Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota earned a 2-0 win over Burnley on Boxing Day.

In the sixth minute of an opening half in which the Reds created a series of chances, Nunez brilliantly dispatched Cody Gakpo’s lay-up to the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

A more even second period, which included a disallowed effort for Harvey Elliott, ensued at Turf Moor but the visitors made sure of three points via the returning Jota late on.

Team news

Jürgen Klopp made five changes to his starting XI, with Joe Gomez and Jarell Quansah named in defence, Elliott and Ryan Gravenberch back in midfield, and Nunez deployed in attack.

Liverpool: Alisson, Gomez, Endo, Van Dijk, Nunez (Jota, 84), Salah, Gakpo (Diaz, 67), Elliott (Szoboszlai, 67), Gravenberch (Jones, 66), Alexander-Arnold, Quansah.

Unused subs: Kelleher, Konate, Chambers, McConnell, Bradley.

First half

There was an open feel to the contest from the off and it led to a series of promising chances at both ends in the first quarter-hour.

Before five minutes had elapsed, an Elliott effort from range that took a slight deflection was palmed out by James Trafford, while Zeki Amdouni sliced wide after carrying the ball from his own half to the Liverpool area.

And Klopp’s men put the first mark on the scoresheet in the sixth minute.

Gakpo, on his 50th Reds appearance, broke into space along the left and fed the ball back to Nunez, who deftly opened up his body and curled a low finish into the bottom right corner from 20 yards.

Trafford had to deny Gravenberch and Mohamed Salah in the immediate aftermath, before Josh Brownhill’s strike from the edge of the box crept wide at the other end.

Nunez got the ball stuck under his feet in the Burnley area after Liverpool’s press forced an error, then Gakpo was just unable to meet the Uruguayan’s cross as chances continued to flow.

The visitors were enjoying firm control as the half-hour mark neared and they had the ball in the net a second time on 28, though it would not count.

Gakpo was initially denied by another Trafford save and he thrashed into the top corner when the loose ball came back to him – but Nunez was judged to have fouled Charlie Taylor in the process, a decision upheld after a VAR review.

Next it was the crossbar that prevented the lead being stretched, Salah crashing a looping shot off the goalframe when sent through by Gakpo’s clipped pass.

Wataru Endo’s well-struck side-footer in minute 40 needed a touch away by Trafford, and the home goalkeeper also got in the way of Salah’s close-range finish before the break.

Second half

Proceedings were calmer when the action resumed after the interval, albeit with Liverpool again assuming command of possession.

It appeared they had doubled their advantage on 55 minutes as Elliott exchanged passes with Gravenberch and tucked a finish in off the right-hand post.

But VAR called a review and, having consulted a replay, referee Paul Tierney judged Salah was in an offside position that was blocking the view of Burnley’s Trafford.

The home side rallied after that reprieve; Sander Berge dragged a decent shooting chance wide and substitute Johann Gudmundsson couldn’t keep his header down from Wilson Odobert’s whipped cross.

Klopp’s team might have put the game to bed on 73 minutes, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deep cross being sent back across the front of goal to Dominik Szoboszlai, who was perhaps caught in two minds as he hooked the ball back and allowed Burnley to clear.

Liverpool had the welcome sight of Jota returning to the pitch late on, and that preceded another flood of scoring opportunities.

Alexander-Arnold’s left-footed volley from distance was marginally off target, Jacob Bruun Larsen thrashed wide after cutting out Endo’s pass, and Trafford kept out Luis Diaz with his leg.

But the points were finally sealed for the Reds in minute 90 as Jota combined with Diaz and drilled a strike underneath the ’keeper – a perfectly-timed 50th goal for the club.

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