Liverpool took a huge step towards claiming one of the two remaining top-four spots with one round of Premier League games to go courtesy of a victory at Burnley that was harder work than the scoreline suggests.
Liverpool’s incredible late win at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday kept their Champions League hopes alive and they took full advantage on Wednesday through a cool finish from Roberto Firmino, a first club goal for Nathaniel Phillips and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s late lashed effort.
The Reds are now in the fourth Champions League spot, level on points with fifth-placed Leicester City and with a goal difference four better than the Foxes.
Brazil striker Firmino added to the brace he scored at Manchester United six days ago with a neat side-foot strike from Andy Robertson’s pull-back to the penalty spot.
Centre-back Phillips then headed in Sadio Mane’s cross early in the second half to give Liverpool a cushion.
Substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain sealed the win in injury time, smashing home a shot after a neat turn to evade Charlie Taylor.
Three goals was, in truth, a poor return from a game packed with excellent opportunities for both sides.
Chris Wood was a menace throughout and should have netted with a shot from close range while Mohamed Salah and especially Thiago Alcantara – who dragged an angled shot wide of the far post – were culpable for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side host Crystal Palace on Sunday, with the Foxes at home to Tottenham and Chelsea, who are a point better off than both, at Aston Villa.
Action from Burnley v Liverpool, plus the rest of Wednesday’s Premier League games
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Liverpool fight tooth and nail for salvation
Having required a sensational injury-time goal from goalkeeper Alisson to complete a comeback and beat West Brom at the weekend, the Reds endured another stressful encounter at Turf Moor.
They were harried all over the pitch throughout by a committed home side keen to impress the 3,000 fans and provide them with an end to a terrible run of home form.
Such energetic pressing required precision passing from the visitors that they struggled to find consistently, especially in the first-half, with the Clarets’ physicality posing a challenge the Reds failed at times to deal with.
However, despite their relative inexperience at the back, Phillips and Rhys Williams did well on the whole against the strong and persistent Wood, with the former also adding a welcome goalscoring aspect to his play.
Having come up for a corner, the 24-year-old was perfectly placed to head home when Mane swung over a cross from the left – his first goal in what has been an unexpected but vital 20 appearances for the injury-hit Reds this season.
Phillips also positioned himself perfectly on the line to clear a Ben Mee header that would have given the visitors a far more challenging final 20 minutes.
As it was, they snatched a third, with Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring his first goal at the end of season hampered by injury as well as long spells on the bench.
Before that, though, it was Firmino’s goal that provided the crucial breakthrough with a low finish that was the first shot the visitors had managed on target in a frantic and often end-to-end first half.
It was not a comfortable experience for Jurgen Klopp’s side but not much has been during their run of nine games unbeaten that has put them on the verge of salvaging something from this hugely disappointing season.
One more win will be enough unless Leicester run riot against Tottenham.
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