In a one-sided night of football, Liverpool smashed Burnley 0-3 to move above Leicester into fourth in the Premier League.
The Reds have put themselves in control of their own destiny now ahead of the final day of the season, giving themselves a great chance to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Nat Phillips
For the first-half at Turf Moor, Nat Phillips struggled to get a grip of Chris Wood as the Burnley striker looked like a Prime Didier Drogba. However he must have spent half-time watching highlight videos on YouTube because he emerged after the break looking like Prime Nemanja Vidic. The ex-Bolton man was transformed and utterly dominated Wood and everyone else who dared to cross him.
Phillips was a colossus. He posted joint team-highs for blocks (2) and tackles (3) and then had a game-high 9 clearances, getting to every loose ball in the Liverpool box and thumping it away. He won 69.2% of his 13 aerial duels and monstered the Clarets and even cleared a header off the line to maintain Burnley’s clean sheet. In fact he was so relentless in his aerial defending the Jamie Carragher remarked: “I think if a double decker bus came into the box Nat Phillips would head it away.”
Carragher “I think if a double decker bus came into the box Nat Phillips would head it away.”
— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) May 19, 2021
And then in the other box, the colossal Phillips had 3 shots as he posed a constant menace to Burnley; a menace that resulted in a goal. The second killer goal that gave the Reds a cushion that dampened the Burnley resistance. Sadio Mané flipped a hopeful cross into the area and Phillips took advantage of some loose marking to rise and thump the header home.
You’d think that would have been his highlight of the night, but no! When asked which moment he preferred, the goal or the clearance off the line, Phillips said: “cleared off the line. Every time. That’s my job to stop goals going in.”
Nat Phillips' game by numbers vs. Burnley:
13 duels won (most)
9 clearances (most)
9 ball recoveries
9 aerial duels won (most)
3 tackles made
1 clean sheet
He really would head a double-decker bus. 🚍 pic.twitter.com/8xLHnx1hMg
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 19, 2021
“Look where he was at the start of the season,” said Jamie Redknapp of Phillips after the match, “he probably thinks I’ve got no chance of playing in this first-team. And now he’s here doing this for this Liverpool side. It’s what dreams are made of.”
Redknapp seemed enamored with Phillips’ guts and glory style of play. “He’s a throwback defender. He wants to make blocks, he wants to make tackles. He knows his limitations. But he knows if he keeps it simple, head it, kick it, do the basics [he] can do a great job for this Liverpool team.”
“He’s in dreamland. He’s proved to himself he can play at this level.”
Loser: Will Norris
You never want to be too harsh on a guy making his first Premier League start but Will Norris was poor. His only previous start came in the third round of the FA Cup against MK Dons and he couldn’t keep a clean sheet there. It was always going to be a big ask against Liverpool.
No one would have begrudged Norris conceding against Liverpool but the way in which he did it was so poor. Roberto Firmino’s shot was basically straight at him and he failed to adjust his body in time to save it. And you get the impression that Bailey Peacock-Farrell would have done better to get to Nat Phillips’ header in the second half too. The third goal, despite going in at Norris’ near-post, was probably the most understandable concession of the night given the sheer power of the strike.
Winner: Roberto Firmino
For a guy whose past two seasons have been defined by how consistently useless he’s been in front of goal, Roberto Firmino sure has found his shooting boots just in the knick of time in terms of Liverpool’s Champions League hopes.
After a brace secured a key victory at Old Trafford he popped up with the opening goal tonight, making a great trailing run to connect with an Andy Robertson cross and guide the ball into the back of the net. In a game where Liverpool kept on missing their chances, this was the Reds’ first shot on target all night and it gave them a priceless lead that they would never surrender.
Roberto Firmino has now scored more Premier League goals for Liverpool (66) than Fernando Torres (65).
Brazilians coming up clutch for the Reds this week. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/8sHgGBIed6
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 19, 2021
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Loser: Jack Cork
As much as youngster Norris was poor on both goals, the fault for the first goal chiefly lies with Jack Cork. As Andrew Robertson’s cross is fizzed in low across the box, Cork has Firmino in his vicinity and should be able to easily step across and block the Brazilian or clear the ball.
But Cork was flat-footed and completely unaware of where Firmino was until it was too late, and his staggering clawing at mid-air conveyed the desperation of a man who knew he had messed up and given a hitherto profligate Liverpool the all-important first goal.
Winner: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been an injury-wreck for Liverpool but Jurgen Klopp has always kept faith with the Englishman and today at Turf Moor we got a glimpse as to why. Oxlade-Chamberlain came on late but managed to get himself onto the scoresheet with an absolute scorcher of a shot, rifling a ball low into the near-post with his weak foot. It was a beautiful strike and Liverpool will be hoping to keep Oxlade-Chamberlain fully fit all of next season because his goalscoring could be a gamechange for them.
For the second season in a row, Leicester have dropped out of the top four before the final day of the season despite spending the majority of the season in the Champions League places. The Foxes’ defeat to Chelsea left them vulnerable and Liverpool’s win here saw the two sides switch places before the final day of the season and whats more, the emphatic scoreline only gives the Reds’ an even bigger advantage in terms of the goal difference tiebreaker.
Leicester will always have their historic FA Cup win, no one can take that from them. Unfortunately Liverpool do appear to have taken their Champions League place from them, leaving them back in the Europa League again despite all their sterling efforts all season.