Chris Wood’s early goal helped Burnley exorcise some winless demons as they edged up the Premier League table and frustrated a Crystal Palace side that will bemoan their lack of a killer touch.
Burnley fans, who were perhaps a little nervous at the prospect of facing a talented Crystal palace attack, were dealt a slice of good news prior to kick off, as reports came in that the Eagles talisman Wilfred Zaha was ruled out.
On top of this, there were calls to rejoice as Sean Dyche had provided the team with a well needed shake-up, with JBG replacing Robbie Brady and Jay Rodriguez coming on in the place of Ashley Barnes, with the hope of providing the team with a bit more attacking potency.
And it worked! On the 8th minute, Cheikhou Kouyate failed to effectively clear a Johann Berg Gudmundsson cross , allowing Jay Rodriguez to cleverly flick the ball past Scott Dann and into the path of an on-running Chris Wood, who drilled the ball beyond a helpless Vicente Guaita.
The assist from Rodriguez showed the skill and awareness Burnley had been lacking in recent games, and his presence allowed the Clarets to attack with much more vigour than previously seen this season. He was able to forge several decent chances from very little in the first half, and was perhaps unfortunate not to score as he got on the end of a Charlie Taylor cross which he was unable to control.
Crystal Palace were far from passengers in the first half, but Burnley’s back 5 were very resolute; standing strong in tackles and restricting Palace to long shots from Clyne and Townsend, which Nick Pope comfortably palmed over.
However, Roy Hodgson’s men were able to show-off their counter-attacking ability when space opened up in the Burnley half, as Eberechi Eze breezed past a flailing Matthew Lowton and fed James McArthur, whose cross was inches beyond the outstretched leg of Michy Batshuayi.
Half time: Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace
The start of the second half signalled a few good opportunities for Burnley to kill the game off. After a shaky first half, Cheikhou Kouyate can probably consider himself quite fortunate to have finished the game, as he seemed to trip up Rodriguez after a delightful nutmeg, and denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. However, VAR deemed that the incident was not worth flagging (despite definite contact).
And shortly after this, Burnley should have been 2-0 up as McNeil slipped Gudmundsson through, but with just the keeper to beat, he could only find the crossbar.
And from this point, Palace’s attack became more meaningful and it looked like Burnley may rue their missed chances from earleir in the half, but the centre back pairing of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski both put in strong performances and limited the chances of the palace attackers with intelligent interceptions and a series of brave body blocks.
Ben Mee’s return to the team has reintroduced the defensive solidity that the Clarets are known for, and if a relegation battle is in store, then his presence in the team is going to be crucial.
However, just after the hourmark, Burnley hearts were in mouths as a lazy backpass from Dwight McNeil presented Michy Batshuayi with a 1-on-1 chance, but Nick Pope raced out to nullify the threat, bringing out a remarkable save to maintain his clean sheet.
Vicente Guaita then pulled out a remarkable save of his own, as a deflected Ashley Westwood cross found Chris Wood, who get couldn’t quite enough on it to force it past the alert Spaniard.
Palace continued to attack as the game drew to a close, but the Burnley defence continued to minimise the crossing threat and allowed the passes through the middle to roll harmlessly out of play.
There was late drama as 90th minute Palace free kick presented substitute Christian Benteke with a glorious opportunity for an equaliser, only to be prevented by the sprawling frame of Nick Pope, once again making a massive claim towards that England No.1 jersey, and receiving a gash to the head for his troubles.
Burnley’s defensive display in the second half deserves a lot of praise, and can show the fans that the season may not be the gloom-fest many have predicted given the poor start. The defensive issues seem to be behind us and if the Jay Rod and Wood can continue to perform the way the did tonight then there is no reason that the Clarets can’t continue to climb up the table. Once we have navigated our trip to the Etihad…
Criticism can be drawn for the lack of ideas and threat as Palace piled on the pressure, with the front 4 all too accommodating of the Eagles attack, but a 1-0 win feels more reminiscent of happier times at our ‘Happy place’.
Full time: Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace