Ashley Barnes recorded his 100th professional goal in dramatic fashion, a rare highlight on a speckled résumé that includes an attempt to trip a referee and smooching an opponent, not once but twice.
Last Thursday, the embarrassment fell on sixth-year Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp, who watched his side lose on its own Anfield pitch, 1-0 to Barnes and Burnley, for the first time in 69 matches.
“It felt impossible to lose … but we did it.” said Klopp, who rightfully claimed responsibility to the BBC. “It is difficult to play against these low blocks. After not scoring for a long time not everybody feels confident. Our decision-making is the problem.” He added that it felt like “a massive punch in the face.”
A low block is a defensive scheme in which many players protect the area deep in their own territory to minimize danger-zone space for opponents to exploit.
Anfield’s typical sellout crowds of 53,394 make it special, especially when they all sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as one.
With England on pandemic lockdown, though, many Liverpudlians were spared a rough evening viewing in person as their defending Premier League champions continuing to struggle.
That was the Reds’ fourth consecutive match without a goal. They had gone 55-0-13 on their pitch. They had been chasing Chelsea’s 86-match unbeaten EPL home-streak record that ended in October 2008.
Real Madrid, with a 121-game unbeaten home league stretch from 1957-65, is the king of that stat. Red Star Belgrade (96, 1998-2004), PSV Eindhoven (93, 1983-89) and Nantes (92, 1976-81) round out the top four.
Liverpool’s woes continued Sunday in a 3-2 defeat, and fourth-round FA Cup exit, at Manchester United.
Burnley had last won at Anfield in September 1974. It had been flirting with the relegation zone, but its 4-3-2 record in its previous nine matches, in all competitions, showed its form had not been poor.
Liverpool, with its goalless stretch, was in a spiral. Mix in no fans at one of England’s most-venerated venues, and savvy punters found enviable +800 to +1000 offshore odds on Burnley.
The match showed why I favor shots on target far more than overall shots. What good is an attempt if it’s nowhere near the goal? The Reds took 27 shots, to six by the Clarets. Wasted effort. That goes along with possession — the hosts had the ball 71.8% of the game, the visitors 28.2%.
Where it mattered, Liverpool mustered six shots on target, Burnley four. Evidence of a tight match that could have gone either way, depending upon the bounce of the ball and kismet.
Enter 31-year-old kissing bandit Ashley Barnes, who poked in a penalty kick in the 83rd minute after getting fouled in the box by Liverpool ‘keeper Alisson Becker.
Barnes made headlines in March 2013, when he earned a seven-match suspension after trying to trip the referee during stoppage time against Bolton. In April 2019, he tumbled to the pitch with Cardiff City defender Joe Bennett. They stood, went mug-to-mug. The 6-foot-1 Barnes pecked the 6-foot Bennett on the bridge of his nose and went back for seconds. He was shown a yellow card.
Broadcaster Gary Lineker, one of England’s famed strikers, tweeted an incredulous note that he capped with two rosy sets of lip emojis. Last week, Barnes made headlines for all the right reasons.
AC Milan -124 at Bologna: The Milanese have dominated away from home, possessing the advantage at halftime and at full time of 10 of their past 11 such matches. They have tallied at least two goals in their past 15 away games. And they’re 9-0-1 in their past 10 against Bologna, where they’ve won the past five by a combined 14-3 score. AC MILAN
Athletic Bilbao at FC Barcelona, Total 3 Ov -115: Barça is 15-0-3 in its past 18 La Liga matches at home against Bilbao, with a 45-10 goals advantage. However, Bilbao won, 3-2, at Camp Nou last week in the Spanish Super Cup. The past five Bilbao games have involved 22 goals, and 20 have been scored in Barça’s past six matches. OVER
Atlético Madrid -1 -122 at Cadiz, Total 2.5 Un -154: The visitors have lost only once in their past 20 matches, in all competitions, and they have a seven-game La Liga winning streak. Super ‘keeper Jan Oblak leads Europe with a save rate of 86.5% and 0.44 goals allowed per match. ATLÉTICO MADRID and UNDER
Last week: 1-1-1