Burnley: Liverpool climbed to the top of the Premier League as Darwin Nunez ended his goal drought to inspire a 2-0 win against struggling Burnley on Tuesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side took an early lead through Nunez at Turf Moor and held on despite wasting a host of chances.
Nunez’s eighth goal this season was his first for 12 games since he netted against Bournemouth in the League Cup on November 1.
Diogo Jota, back from a month’s injury absence, wrapped up the victory late on to leave Liverpool two points above second placed Arsenal, who have a game in hand.
Third placed Aston Villa would move level on points with Liverpool, behind them on goal difference, if they beat Manchester United later on Tuesday.
Arsenal can regain top spot with a victory at home to West Ham on Thursday.
After successive draws with Manchester United and Arsenal prior to Christmas, this was an essential victory for Liverpool’s title ambitions.
Chasing a first title since 2020, the Reds still aren’t at their flowing best, but what they lack in grace they make up for in grit at present.
Last game of 2023
Second bottom Burnley are five points from safety, but it could have different if Zeki Amdouni had given them a shock lead when he raced through the middle for a wayward shot that whistled wide in the opening seconds.
In their final game of 2023, Liverpool took advantage of that escape in the sixth minute as Cody Gakpo teed up Nunez and he curled a fine finish into the far corner from 20 yards.
Gakpo should have doubled Liverpool’s lead when he blasted wastefully over from a good position inside the area.
Burnley’s Josh Brownhill forced Alisson Becker to make a good save with a testing long-range strike.
But Liverpool were always in the ascendancy and Harvey Elliott had a shot well saved by Trafford before Gakpo’s powerful finish was disallowed for Nunez’s foul on Charlie Taylor in the build-up.
As they searched for a second goal, Liverpool went close again as Mohamed Salah hit the bar with a fierce strike from Joe Gomez’s pass.
Wataru Endo’s low drive from the edge of the area was pushed away at full-stretch by Trafford.
The over-worked Trafford was keeping Burnley from being demolished as he made another good stop to keep out Salah’s curler.
Elliott thought he had scored in the 55th minute with a cushioned finish from Ryan Gravenberch’s cross, but the goal was ruled out after a VAR check showed Salah was offside.
Dara O’Shea’s flick almost provided Burnley with an equaliser against the run of play as the ball bounced off Nunez and looped just over.
Suddenly, Liverpool looked a little vulnerable Johann Gudmundsson squandered a golden opportunity when he headed Wilson’s Odobert’s cross over from close-range.
Burnley’s final fling came when Jacob Bruun Larsen drilled inches wide after Endo’s mistake.
In the 90th minute, Portugal forward Jota delivered the knockout blow, firing home from an acute angle inside the area for his 50th Liverpool goal.