Neil Humphreys: Give Liverpool more respect
Liverpool don't deserve daft criticism after gutsy victory
Liverpool could be forgiven for using their 4-2 victory against Burnley last night to gag their grumbling critics.
The win felt like a timely act of defiance, a chance to silence those who refuse to acknowledge the Reds' outstanding season.
In recent days, Juergen Klopp and Co have answered the same, daft questions with remarkable restraint.
The queries were either disrespectful or downright ignorant, but they usually involved mental weakness, title collapses, Steven Gerrard slips and a 29-year-old monkey.
Apparently, the Reds had succumbed to historic pressures. The Reds were done.
Statistics confirmed the complete opposite, but facts were not being allowed to get in the way of a tired narrative.
Liverpool, it seemed, were a lost cause.
But they aren't. Of course they aren't. And their 4-2 win at Anfield last night in horrendous conditions was just the latest example of a team refusing to conform to the lazy storyline of myopic pundits.
They deserve respect, not premature obituaries.
Before kick-off, British commentaries suggested that the Reds were struggling with the ghosts of failed title races and Gerrard slips.
But they now have 73 points, a higher total than Manchester United achieved at the same stage in 11 of Sir Alex Ferguson's 13 title wins.
Their solitary defeat all season means they are eight points better off than they were at the same stage in 2014, when Luis Suarez was morphing into one of the most reliable finishers in world football.
Liverpool are not imploding. They are only a point behind the most powerful economic force that British football has ever seen.
Against Burnley, they were up against the omnipresent pressure in the media, the swirling, Arctic conditions and a farcical Burnley goal that should've been chalked off.
And they prevailed, just as they have throughout a record-breaking season. Maybe this victory will usher in an urgent reappraisal because a huge banana skin presented itself after just six minutes.
Burnley went ahead with a goal that missed the benefit of both common sense and a VAR (video assistant referee) reply.
Stubborn romanticists that still cling to the quaint notion of incorrect decisions balancing themselves out across a season either didn't see Ashley Westwood's opener or are Manchester City supporters.
The Burnley midfielder's whipped corner cleared Alisson's reach and dipped inside the back post. But Alisson was a squashed filling in a Claret sandwich, with James Tarkowski and Jack Cork pinning the goalkeeper to the turf.
Goalkeepers are a protected species among officials, often winning free-kicks from minimal contact. But Alisson was impeded beneath Tarkowski in the way that concrete is impeded beneath a pneumatic drill.
The goal should've been disallowed.
Anfield was already a little jittery. A midday kick-off in gale-force conditions can knock the wind out of anyone's sails.
But Westwood's fluke turned down the volume.
Fortunately for the hosts, Tarkowski took it upon to himself to redress the balance in the 19th minute, when he failed to communicate with his own goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
Both missed Mohamed Salah's low cross. Roberto Firmino obliged with a tap-in.
Burnley's second defensive blunder 10 minutes later settled the contest. As defenders dithered, Adam Lallana intercepted with a feisty sliding tackle and the ball finally found its way to Sadio Mane to sweep home.
Lallana was an unexpected addition to the line-up, considering the midfielder hadn't played a full 90 minutes in two years. But Klopp sought an injection of unpredictability and Lallana offered flashes of his former, lively self.
Indeed his inclusion appeared to rouse the men ahead of him, with Mane, Firmino and Salah swopping passes and fizzing around Burnley's rather static back four.
Firmino and Salah combined in the 67th minute to gift the Brazilian his second. Heaton's horrendous clearance was sliced straight to Salah, who raced towards the unprotected goalkeeper.
A superb tackle denied Salah, but Firmino smashed in the loose ball.
Burnley made for a twitchy final few moments, when substitute Johann Berg Gudmundsson stabbed in from close range in the 91st minute. But Mane then broke away to round Heaton and put the game to bed.
Liverpool aren't out of the title race. They never really were and it's time for sceptics to acknowledge their success in clinging to the coat-tails of runaway giants.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Sturridge 86), Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum (Henderson 68), Fabinho, Lallana (Keita 77), Salah, Firmino, Mane
BURNLEY: Heaton, Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick (Gudmundsson 79), Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Barnes (Vydra 86), Wood (Crouch 79)