BURNLEY, England (AP) — Raheem Sterling’s second-half strike gave Liverpool its first league victory in four matches, beating Burnley 1-0 Friday despite turning in a poor performance at Turf Moor.
Last year Liverpool was top of the Premier League on Christmas Day having scored twice as many goals as this season after 17 matches. Liverpool began this match in its lowest position on this day since 1992-93, when it was also 10th.
But having failed to create anything resembling a genuine chance against Burnley, Liverpool took the lead out of nowhere just past the hour. Philippe Coutinho’s lob sent Sterling clear and around goalkeeper Tom Heaton, rolling a shot past Burnley’s despairing defenders trying to get back.
Earlier, Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones was injured, handing the recently-dropped Simon Mignolet a route back into the team. The Belgian was routinely teased and taunted by the home crowd and not all of that was unjustified in an erratic 75-minute performance.
Danny Ings fired over early on for Burnley after Lucas Leiva had dived into a challenge on Dean Marney and was easily side-stepped.
Ings was a threat and when Martin Skrtel came out to attack a Burnley throw and missed, the striker rammed a shot against the post with Ashley Barnes ballooning over the rebound.
That signalled the end for Jones as he was immediately substituted and it was as if Burnley sensed blood with the arrival of his out-of-form replacement as early as the 16th minute. Mignolet’s every touch was jeered and the ridicule only worsened when he drilled a clearance straight into Ings and scrambled to recover.
Burnley swarmed forward with renewed encouragement — Barnes headed over, Scott Arfield’s goalbound shot was prevented from creeping inside the post by the tips of Lucas’ toes and both George Boyd and Marney threatened before the break. Mignolet’s only minor victory saw him come off his line sharply to beat Barnes to the ball.
Sterling’s goal in the 62nd provided no sense of calmness or composure for Liverpool, mainly thanks to the unconvincing Mignolet who managed to save Arfield’s angled shot with his legs, having dived the wrong way anticipating a cross, and then allowed a Mamadou Sakho back pass to roll out of play before he cleared it.
Liverpool moves up a place to ninth with 25 points from 18 games while Burnley remains in the relegation zone with 15 from 18.