LIVERPOOL, England – Liverpool had to survive Burnley’s scare on both ends of the game on Sunday to secure a 4-2 win on the strength of two braces by Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, keeping the pace with the Premier League’s standing leader Manchester City.
Burnley had a powerful start to the game taking the lead just six minutes into the first half when English midfielder Ashley Westwood scored directly from a corner kick, a so-called Olympic goal, amid protests by Liverpool players who claimed a foul against Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson.
Liverpool needed just 13 minutes to draw level as Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah collected his seventh Premier League assist of the season, sending a low cross into the penalty area.
A misunderstanding between goalkeeper Tom Heaton and central defender James Tarkowski allowed Salah’s cross to reach unmarked forward Roberto Firmino of Brazil, who put the ball into the wide-open goal from a close range.
Shortly before the half-hour mark, Liverpool restored order, seizing on yet another defensive error, this time by right-back Phil Bardsley who lost the ball near the area under pressure by midfielder Adam Lallana.
The ball reached Salah who hit the ground claiming a penalty kick, but a ruthless Mane of Senegal curled the ball home to give his team the lead for the first time in the game.
After the intermission, Liverpool got the third goal on a counter-attack led by Salah down the right side, but the Egyptian saw his attempt blocked by defender Charlie Taylor.
Taylor, however, did not only prevent Salah from scoring, but also accidentally collided with Heaton, who had rushed forward to tackle Salah’s attempt, and the ball reached Firmino who completed his brace, once more into an open wide goal.
In the dying minutes of the second half, winger Johann Gudmundsson of Iceland found the back of the net just one minute into stoppage time, boosting his teammates’ morale as they aggressively sought out the equalizer.
It was in the third minute of stoppage time when Mane rounded off his brace and put the game out of Burnley’s reach.
After the win, second-placed Liverpool maintains the gap at one point behind Manchester City, who earned a 3-1 win over Watford on Saturday, with eight matches to go.
With domestic duty accomplished, Liverpool will turn its attention to the second leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 against Bayern Munich, scheduled for Wednesday. Both teams played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg played at Liverpool’s Anfield.
Ahead of facing the 2017/2018 Champions League runner-up to Real Madrid, the Bundesliga champion made a big statement Saturday by thrashing Wolfsburg 6-0 to regain the top spot of the German first-tier league.