BURNLEY: Burnley forwards Sam Vokes and Andre Gray each scored their first Premier League goals as the promoted club inflicted a surprise 2-0 defeat upon Liverpool yesterday. Liverpool had edged Arsenal 4-3 in a ding-dong opening fixture, but they were cut down to size by a Burnley team whose top-flight return had ended with the damp squib of a 1-0 defeat at home to Swansea City. It was the first league victory for Burnley over their visitors since 1974 and all the more sweet for Wales international Vokes, who had played 27 games at this level-dating back to 2009 — without finding the net. Vokes struck after two minutes, scoring Burnley’s first ever Premier League goal against Liverpool with an emphatic finish, although the effort owed much to terrible defending by Nathaniel Clyne. His mishit pass gifted the ball to Gray, who slipped a short pass to Vokes, and the Welshman turned before depositing a powerful finish to the right of the diving Simon Mignolet.
Last season’s Championship winners almost doubled their lead a minute later as George Boyd played Gray into the visitors’ area and Dejan Lovren was forced to make a well-timed covering tackle. It was a much-needed bright start for the home team on the day manager Sean Dyche handed a debut to 7 million pounds ($9.2 million, 8.1 million euros) record signing Steven Defour, who has arrived from Anderlecht. Apart from Defour, the remaining 10 players selected by Dyche had been on duty for his club on the final day of last season in the Championship. A second goal, against the run of play, after 36 minutes put Burnley firmly in control as Defour showed his quality, winning a loose ball and advancing to the edge of the Liverpool area before finding Gray. The striker, who scored 23 times last season, then brushed aside a challenge before placing a shot into the bottom corner. In response to Burnley’s opener, Liverpool saw long-range shots from Daniel Sturridge and Georginio Wijnaldum sail harmlessly over the Burnley goal.
HEATON FRUSTRATES LIVERPOOL
Philippe Coutinho appeared to be getting closer with an 11th-minute shot that curled just over from 20 yards. Michael Keane, the Burnley centre-back, was also required to come to his side’s rescue as his near-post clearance snuffed out danger from Adam Lallana’s dangerous low cross as Roberto Firmino lurked. Coutinho’s pass to James Milner, playing at left-back for the visitors, allowed the veteran utility man to pick out Lallana, who swivelled and produced a shot that was comfortably smothered by Tom Heaton. As Liverpool probed, Sturridge darted to the edge of the area and hit a left-foot shot wide of the far post.
Burnley’s second goal served only to temporarily interrupt the Liverpool pressure. Clyne looked for a way back into the game with a low shot that Heaton saved easily and Coutinho cut in and rushed a shot high and wide. The visitors started the second half in similar fashion, with Sturridge sending a low shot whistling beyond the far post. Wijnaldum laid the ball off for Coutinho to shoot too close to Heaton, before Firmino saw the home goalkeeper make a fine, two-handed save to repel his attempt from outside the box. Coutinho, yet again, missed the target, this time with a volley from the edge of the home area after a corner had been cleared directly to him. But Gray continued to cause problems on the break at the other end, notably in the 65th minute when he made space and fired just wide with his left foot. Heaton was required to make a finger-tip save to keep out a shot from Marko Grujic after the substitute showed good strength, but for all their possession, Liverpool failed to seriously test the home goalkeeper again. —AFP