Jurgen Klopp felt Liverpool overcame a tricky start to pass a tough test against Burnley after claiming a win that moves them into the Premier League’s top four.
Goals from Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Phillips and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain secured the Reds a 3-0 triumph at Turf Moor, though the final score did not do justice to how hard they were made to work for the points.
Burnley kept their opponents at bay until the 43rd minute and had chances of their own in the contest, though they were unable to avoid slipping to a 10th successive home game without a victory.
In contrast, Liverpool have now won four on the spin. This latest success on the road sees Klopp’s side leapfrog Leicester City on goal difference as they bid to clinch a place in next season’s Champions League heading into the final day this weekend.
Defender Phillips doubled the visitors’ lead when he headed in a cross from Sadio Mane for his first goal for the club, then later cleared one off the line in his own penalty area.
“I can’t remember an easy game against Burnley,” the Liverpool boss said in his post-match interview for Match of the Day.
“The way they play is so tricky to defend. They were smart, they wanted to go for the centre-halves with (Chris) Wood and (Josh) Brownhill, little shadow runs here and there.
“There was quite a nervy start, passing wise, we played the majority of the balls in their feet in the beginning, and we had to adapt a little bit to the atmosphere inside the stadium.
“After that, we played really good football. We had two massive chances early, scored then a wonderful goal, super football.
“Second half they started again with the high intensity and we had to be ready. You cannot deny them all the time, but you have to score in the moments when you have chances.
“Nat, with the header, a really great header, then Oxlade-Chamberlain with a nice little football skill, really convincing. Very important for him, he’s been out a long time, then in and out (of the team). I was really happy for that.”
Liverpool are in the top four for the first time since the middle of February, while Leicester have not sat outside the Champions League qualification spots since early December.
Such a situation for the 2019-20 top-flight champions looked unlikely in recent weeks, but a season that has seen the squad left shorthanded in certain positions could finish on a high.
Phillips has been integral to the late push too, playing alongside fellow centre-back Rhys Williams. It is a partnership that, according to Klopp, could change the long-term outlook for both players, particularly as they were so far down the pecking order before injuries opened the door to the first team.
“In our season, apart from the finish now, there are not a lot of good things,” Klopp said. “But the chances they’ve got – and how they’ve used it – these types of things create careers.”
On Phillips, he added: “I don’t think a lot of people would have thought he would be a big starter for Liverpool this year, now he’s scored a goal. It’s really nice.”
Liverpool host Crystal Palace on Sunday at Anfield and while in a strong position for now, Klopp made clear the job is far from done.
“We have one more game to go and do not have the biggest squad, particularly in certain positions, so we have to wrap them in cotton wool and go again,” the German said.
“We need to be ready again, nothing is decided yet. We have our final, that’s all we could get tonight.”