Liverpool maintained the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City by coming from behind to beat Burnley in tricky conditions at Anfield.
The Clarets took a shock sixth-minute lead when Ashley Westwood scored direct from a corner, although it appeared Reds’ goalkeeper Alisson had been impeded by James Tarkowski.
But the hosts were only behind for 13 minutes before Roberto Firmino tapped in after Tom Heaton had fumbled Mohamed Salah’s cross.
In a first half played in strong wind and hailstorms, Liverpool took the lead when Sadio Mane curled a shot past Heaton.
Firmino scored his second following Heaton’s poor clearance and Burnley pulled one back late on through Johann Berg Gudmundsson from six yards out.
But there was no fight back as Mane then went around the Clarets’ keeper in injury time for his second and Liverpool’s fourth to seal the win, which leaves Jurgen Klopp’s side one point behind City with eight league games of the season remaining.
Liverpool, aiming to become English champions for the first time since 1990, had faced questions over their character after a run of four draws in six league matches had seen them lose their lead at the top of the table.
Raheem Sterling’s hat-trick for Manchester City on Saturday gave Pep Guardiola’s side a 3-1 win over Watford and left the defending champions with a four-point advantage.
Guardiola said it would be “almost impossible” to win every remaining league match and all Liverpool can do is win their own games and hope for a slip-up from City.
The hosts made the worst possible start, trailing early on, but Klopp’s team responded in fine fashion and showed their character to dig deep and overcome a hard-working and determined Burnley outfit.
Firmino’s shot was deflected over after 13 minutes, but six minutes later he had his 10th league goal of the season, scoring from close range after a mistake from Heaton following fine play from Salah, who had played a one-two with Georginio Wijnaldum.
The inclusion of Adam Lallana, making only his fifth start of the season, was met with doubt by many on social media – but he played a huge part in Liverpool’s second, sliding in to block a clearance, with Ben Mee’s subsequent challenge falling to Mane to curl past Heaton.
A second error from Heaton, who gifted the ball to Salah, led to the Reds’ third, with Firmino finishing after Charlie Taylor’s challenge on the Egyptian fell straight to the Brazilian.
An injury-time goal from Burnley substitute Gudmundsson threatened a dramatic finish, but Mane – who had earlier hit the crossbar – finished the job with a goal in the 93rd minute.
|Remaining fixtures in the Premier League title race|
|1st – Manchester City (P 30, GD 58, PTS 74)||2nd – Liverpool (P30, GD 51, PTS 73)|
|30 March v Fulham (A)||17 March v Fulham (A)|
|6 April* v Cardiff City (H)||31 March v Tottenham (H)|
|14 April* v Crystal Palace (A)||5 April v Southampton (A)|
|20 April v Tottenham (H)||14 April v Chelsea (H)|
|24 April v Manchester United (A)||21 April v Cardiff City (A)|
|28 April* v Burnley (A)||26 April v Huddersfield Town (H)|
|4 May* v Leicester City (H)||4 May* v Newcastle United (A)|
|12 May v Brighton (A)||12 May v Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)|
For Burnley, it was a third successive defeat as they were overpowered by Liverpool, who recorded 23 shots to the visitors’ three, although the Clarets did manage to score from both of their attempts on target.
Their lead, coming from Westwood’s left-wing corner, came in controversial circumstances as Alisson was sandwiched between Jack Cork and Tarkowski, with the latter having his arms on the shoulders of the Brazilian and holding him down as the ball sailed over his head and into the net.
Burnley have not won at Anfield since September 1974 and boss Sean Dyche was unhappy with his side’s defending and “individual errors”.
Two of Liverpool’s goals came from Heaton mistakes, with the goalkeeper hoping to be named in Gareth Southgate’s England squad on Wednesday for the European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.
However, one positive for Dyche and Burnley’s supporters came in the shape of 19-year-old left midfielder Dwight McNeil, who, according to his manager, produced an “absolutely outstanding” performance and was “running around Anfield like a kid in a sweet shop”. The Clarets’ fans even had brief hope of a shock and undeserved point when Gudmundsson scored after being set up by Matej Vydra.
Burnley, in their third successive season in the top flight, are 17th in the table, only two points ahead of 18th-placed Cardiff City and face a four-game spell that is likely to be crucial to their hopes of staying in the Premier League.
They play Leicester and Wolves at home, before games against Bournemouth and Cardiff City, and Dyche will be looking for a good points haul – especially as their final four fixtures see them playing Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton and Arsenal.