Cruel Christmas for Clarets So Far!
Boxing Day, Friday 26th December 2014 @3pm Kick-Of
Burnley suffered a 'smash and grab` 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool on Boxing Day to leave Clarets fans wondering if there would be any Christmas cheer over the festive period with two tough away games coming up next against Manchester City and Newcastle.
Liverpool certainly knew they had been in a game and once again it was a tale of missed first-half chances that the hosts would rue in the second half. The Clarets with 53% of the possession completely dominated a nervous looking Liverpool in the first-half. Danny Ings hit the woodwork and a hesitant Reds back three were put under continual pressure but to no avail. Burnley created at least ten chances to break the deadlock but the score stubbornly remained 0-0 at half-time. Not for the first time this season the second-half started with the visiting team looking a lot brighter and it was a goal from Sterling in the 62nd minute that in the end proved enough to secure all three points for Liverpool. The Premier League is so cruel and unforgiving at times and so it would prove again with Burnley unable to find that elusive equaliser despite creating further chances. The only thing Clarets fans could celebrate on this miserable cold, Boxing Day in the end was the return of Sam Vokes who came on from the bench to replace Ashley Barnes with ten minutes remaining.
The back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Tottenham have plunged Burnley back into the relegation zone and yet in many ways these last two performances have been our best of the season so far. We have deserved to get something from both games but it would appear Santa has spurned the Clarets so far this Christmas. The last time we were in the top-flight back in 2009-10, in the corresponding fixtures we lost 5-0 away to Spurs and then 4-0 at home to Liverpool which goes to show the significance of the narrow defeats this season!
The only comfort for the Clarets was that a number of the teams around us fighting to avoid the drop also failed to pick up points although Hull pulled off a 3-1 win away to Sunderland to leapfrog Burnley who are now second from bottom still on 15 points having now played 18 games. The Tigers in fact were the only club fighting against relegation to benefit on Boxing Day and actually the result wasn`t too bad for the Clarets since it kept Sunderland deep in trouble in 14th position just four points clear of the drop zone . Bottom club Leicester remain five points behind Burnley following a 2-1 defeat by Tottenham in the King Power Stadium. Crystal Palace now third from bottom also suffered a home defeat going down 3-1 to Southampton. The Eagles remain on the same number of points as the Clarets and are ahead on goal difference only (5 goal advantage). QPR in the late evening game could not hold Arsenal and finished up losing 2-1 in the Emirates whilst West Brom had no answer to high-flying Manchester City and went down 3-1 at the Hawthorns. Both these clubs remain on seventeen points just two more than Burnley.
It is important that Burnley keep within touching distance of at least the four clubs above us. Palace, Hull, QPR and West Brom are all easily catchable at the moment and none of those are more than two points clear of Burnley. Sunderland on 19 points and Aston Villa on 20 points are also looking over their shoulder at the chasing pack. The problem for the Clarets is that they now face two very difficult games indeed and the gap could now widen. You would not expect Burnley to pick up anything in the Etihad on Sunday against a rampant, in-form looking second-placed Manchester City and it won`t be easy on New Year`s Day either when we face a vastly improved Newcastle at St James Park. The irony at the moment is that we are playing probably our most fluid, attractive football of the season but without reward. If you can`t take your chances and convert the good performances into results, in the end it will mean nothing so somehow we really have to dig deep and hope for a miracle of two over the remaining festive period.
Sean Dyche announced the same starting eleven for the fourth consecutive time and there was some particularly good news on the bench. Sam Vokes made a return to the eighteen for the first time since suffering a cruciate ligament injury against Leicester at Turf Moor in March last season. The line-up then was follows :
Heaton, Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee, Arfield, Marney, Jones, Boyd, Ings, Barnes
Subs: Gilks, Long, Reid, Kightly, Wallace, Jutkiewicz, Vokes
Full Match Report
Cheshire referee, Anthony Taylor got the game underway on a cold, frosty, snow-threatening day in Burnley! It was a lively start and Burnley were the first to create a chance when Scott Arfield managed to keep the ball in play to pull the ball back to Ings. He was unable to spin round though after the Liverpool defence crowded him out before he could get in a shot. At the other end, a weak attempt from Phillipe Coutinho took a deflection but it caused no problem for Heaton. In the 15th minute Burnley were denied the lead after Ings latched onto a Ben Mee throw in. Wrong-footing Brad Jones, the in-form striker then unleashed a shot that looked to be in the back of the net until the bottom of the left-hand post got in the way! Jones would not take part in any further action after injuring himself so on came Simon Mignolet and boy did the replacement Liverpool keeper appear shaky and lack confidence as the half went on! The Clarets sensing blood began to put the new keeper under pressure. An attempted clearance by the keeper was blocked by Ings and then Barnes after some neat play with Marney headed over the bar following a Clarets attack on the break. Indeed the unusual 3-4-3 formation chosen by Brendan Rodgers with Gerrard in the holding role did not really seem that effective especially in defence. In terms of possession, although Burnley had the advantage by far you always sensed though that Liverpool were just biding their time and waiting for the break. With just 30 minutes on the clock, Gerrard produced a pin-point accurate pass to find Adam Lallana but the former Saints winger from 18 yards out could only shoot straight at the keeper. Back came the Clarets in force and if anybody was going to break the deadlock you would have put money on Burnley to do so! An Arfield volley looked to be heading into the back of the net until Lucas managed to get a vital toe to the ball to deny the Scot and concede a corner. Barnes got on the end of the corner too but his bicycle kick was a little too high. It was all Burnley now and they had the last chance of the half when Boyd saw his rising drive fly just too high
Dyche made no changes for the start of the second-half and for a time there was a similar pattern to the play but just past the hour mark a more determined looking Liverpool got lucky and got their undeserved noses in front! A header from Gerrad was allowed to bounce in the centre circle. Coutinho latched onto the ball and spun to set Sterling charging free on goal. Heaton came charging out but the England international rounded him to slot the ball home despite the best efforts of Jason Shackell. The Clarets though responded well not for the first time this season after finding themselves a goal down! A cross from Trippier on the left following a half-cleared corner found Keane but the on-loan defender could only head the ball down and wide. With the final quarter of the game approaching a solo effort from Ings saw him advancing into a shooting position but once again he couldn`t find the target. It was now time for Dyche to introduce some fresh legs in attack and for the first time in nine months on came a fully recovered Sam Vokes to replace Ashley Barnes with ten minutes of normal time remaining. Could the reunited Vings partnership now produce the goods? Sadly it wasn`t to be a dream return for Vokes. Although Burnley continued to enjoy quite a bit of possession in these final stages of the game that clear cut chance to equalise continued to elude them and in the end it was a bitter defeat with everybody supporting the Clarets now ruing once again all those chances missed in the first half. Despite the first half chances and by the end a corner count of 8 to 2 in Burnley`s favour once again they couldn`t make the pressure count and had to stomach a 'smash and grab` totally undeserved win by Liverpool. For the second game in succession we had played our best football of the season without any sort of reward in a so far cruel, cruel Christmas!! Boxing Day blues then and Manchester City at the Etihad! Oh tidings of comfort and joy!
Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Mee (Jutkiewicz-90+3), Arfield, Marney, Jones (Wallace-83), Boyd, Ings, Barnes (Vokes-80)
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Long, Reid, Kightly
Liverpool: Jones (Mignolet-16), K Touré (Can-45), Skrtel, Sakho, Henderson, Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Markovic, Coutinho (Lambert-73), Sterling, Lallana
Subs Not Used: Moreno, Manquillo, Ojo, Balotelli
Goals: Sterling 62
Booked: Yellow Card for Lucas Leiva (82)
Possession: 48% Burnley, 52% Liverpool (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)
The Dyche Deliberation
'It is as well as we have played, considering the opposition, since I have been at the club.
'If not totally dominant, we were very dominant. The challenge is not just to be excellent but to win.'