Proud to be a Claret!
6th January 2008 @ 2pm
On the day the Clarets faced the Mighty Arsenal in the FA Cup 3rd Round; most Clarets fans were hoping that we could at least avoid a tonking and not play like plonkers in front of the cameras. The hearts of course for all Clarets were beating with anticipation, hoping that we might even win or even better draw and get a trip to the Emirates putting some additional dosh in the bank. Our brains of course though struggled with the notion of getting anything from the match. After all, we had not won a game now in six matches and winning at Turf Moor was proving even more difficult, with no win at all at home under new gaffer, Owen Coyle and no win at home at all since October 2007. Six wins only at home in the whole of 2007 plus one embarrassing, awful New Years Day 3-0 defeat away to local rivals Blackpool did not auger well faced with now playing the current Premier League leaders and arguably the best team in Europe.
Of course we didn`t win; we lost 2-0 thanks to a goal in either half by the strangely quiet Eduardo in the first and Bendtner in the second. However things could have been so different as the Clarets took the game to Arsenal and attacked throughout. This was a plucky, brave performance from the Clarets and nobody could say that we didn`t play with pride and passion and we did nothing but gain new friends and respect in the Footy world as the events of the day unfolded live on BBC1.
As far as the Clarets were concerned the match revolved around two main incidents both involving Kyle Lafferty. A goal that might have been and a sending-off that probably shouldn`t have been influenced significantly the outcome of the match.
But first what about the teams?
Burnley still had two players sidelined through injury, Clarke Carlisle and Alan Mahon and David Unsworth was suspended. The problems in defence meant that Coyle had no option but to bring in a loan defender, Stanislav Varga.
Varga had been signed on a one month`s loan only the Friday before from Sunderland. The tall, imposing central defender looked the part but would the 35-year old Slovakian have the necessary pace and more importantly how match fit was he, bearing in mind he had not played for Sunderland at all this season?
Gudjonsson, returning from a four match ban was named on the bench but there was no place in the sixteen for John Spicer who was also available for selection after completing a three-match ban. The Clarets therefore lined up as follows:
Kiraly, Alexander, Caldwell, Varga, Harley, Elliott, James O`Connor, McCann, Lafferty, Gray, Blake
Subs: Jensen, Akinbiyi, Jordan, Gudjonsson, Jones.
The Gunners chose the following sixteen and whichever way you look at it this was a formidable line up even if some of the key first team players for Arsenal were missing. There was thankfully no Fabregas, Flamini, Walcott or Adebayor. Keeper, Lens Lehmann was selected in what could be his final match for the Gunners and the dangerous Eduardo and Bendtner were named up front.
Lehmann, Sagna, Toure, Senderos, Traore ,Eboue, Silva, Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner, Eduardo.
Subs: Fabianski, Djourou, Hoyte, Randall, Lansbury.
Staffordshire referee, Alan Wiley got the match underway
The Clarets could have taken the lead in the sixth minute, when a cross from Andy Gray found the head of Kyle Lafferty. The thunderous header had keeper, Jens Lehmann well beaten but the ball hit the woodwork bouncing down to safety.
If that goal had gone in, the story of the match may well have been different, but alas it didn`t and it was Arsenal who took the lead three minutes later.
Kolo Toure split the defence and found the perfect pass to Eduardo who simply tapped the ball past Kiraly. The Clarets were at fault for this goal with some blame having to be laid at the slow feet of debutant, Varga but c`est la vie! The question now would be, how would the Clarets react, would their heads drop and would the Arsenal tonking begin?
Thankfully the answers to the last two questions would be no and they reacted with great pride and passion continuing to take the game to Arsenal with attacking flair and delightful approach play.
Robbie Blake came close to equalising on 19 minutes, but his tight-angled shot flew well over to the relief of the Gunner`s defence. The Clarets continued to impress and indeed you would not have believed Arsenal were 31 places higher than the Clarets in the League. Arsenal of course ensured we couldn`t relax too much and they were always going to be dangerous on the break and from set-pieces.
James O'Connor cleared off the line from a Denilson corner on 21 minutes when Gilberto's header was deflected towards goal by Jon Harley.
Armand Traore could not deal with a cross from Lafferty on 38 minutes and fumbled about in defence with Elliott pouncing. He robbed the ball off him and put in a delightful cross to find Chris McCann but he shot way into the Cricket Field Stand from 16 yards out in a valiant effort to get the equaliser.
Bendtner had been strangely quiet throughout the half but he seemed to wake up just before half-time and brought out a save by Kiraly following a spectacular bicycle kick on 41 minutes.
So the whistle went for half-time with the Clarets 1-0 down, but that didn`t tell the whole story by any means. In fact, it was the Clarets who had the most impressive half and even the BBC1 pundits appeared to agree after I listened to them post-match and watched the recorded match on TV.
The Wenger Boys had been given plenty to think about and they were not going to get any respite as the second half got underway. Eduardo though did thankfully for once miss after curling a shot wide on the edge of the box but that seemed to spur on the Clarets.
Robbie Blake lofted in a free kick from 25 yards out on 55 minutes and found Chris McCann unmarked but his header could have perhaps have been better as another opportunity to equalise went begging.
Up to this stage we were pressing quite well but disaster was about to happen.
Kyle Lafferty was adjudged to have gone in too high on Gilberto with the result that the referee without any consultation produced a red card. This was clearly a debatable decision and even more so after watching the replay over-and-over again on telly. His raised heel quite clearly touched the ball before the player and although it was probably a foul and somewhat reckless, a red-card did seem a tadge unfair. Gilberto of course quickly recovered but we were reduced to ten men after making a game of this against all the odds! It`s worse for the Clarets because Lafferty now suffers a four-match ban as this is his second red of the season. General consensus would suggest a yellow card would have been the fairer outcome as the tackle was clearer not malicious. Reckless though and foolhardy maybe, since we all know the referees have been told to clamp down on these sort of tackles. This was not a two-footed tackle though just somewhat high but the referee was close to the incident and there was nothing that could be done to change his mind.
But let`s give credit to the Clarets; despite now down to 10 men, they continued to play as though it had not happened and if anything the harsh decision spurred them on.
Andy Gray came close to scoring from a header on 68 minutes after an excellent cross from Wade Elliott. Philippe Senderos however got his head in the way to deny Gray.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before Arsenal would score again but the ten men Clarets were making it hard work for them. However, Clarets fans hearts sank on 75 minutes when Eduardo slotted a ball behind Stanislav Varga to find Bendtner who rounded Kiraly to slot home and put the Gunners 2-0 up. Game over despite the Clarets valiant effort!
You could blame Varga for being at fault in both Arsenal goals but to be honest other than that he did have quite a solid performance and put in some delightful passes despite not having any competitive games this season.
Joey Gudjonsson replaced the energetic, and Sponsors Man of the Match, James O`Connor on 76 minutes.
Arsenal turned it on for the rest of the match with some possession football and the dual substitution of Akinbiyi and Jones for Gray and Blake after 79 minutes did not really have any influential effect.
So there was not to be a giant-killing act but if anything the 2-0 final score flattered the Mighty Arsenal and Arsene Wenger certainly knew he had been in a game and gave the Clarets compliments in the post-match interview. If could have been so different but it wasn`t to be. Perhaps if we could improve our set-pieces we might stand a better chance and if only that header by Lafferty had been a couple of inches lower!
Yes, indeed a day though when we can all be proud to be Clarets. I certainly was one of them, well done lads and hard luck!
Burnley: Kiraly, Alexander, Caldwell, Varga, Harley, Elliott, James O'Connor (Gudjonsson 76), McCann, Lafferty, Blake (Jones 79), Gray (Akinbiyi 79).
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Jordan.
Sent Off: Lafferty (60).
Arsenal: Lehmann, Sagna, Toure, Senderos, Traore (Justin Hoyte 71), Eboue, Silva, Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner, Eduardo.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Djourou, Randall, Lansbury.
Goals: Eduardo 9, Bendtner 75.
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)