Normal service has been resumed, Turf Moor is once again a “happy place” (I promise to make no further reference to our new catch phrase in this piece); a victory and a clean sheet. It has been a while since Clarets fans have been able to bask in the glow of three points; cause for celebration.
Monday tea time’s home Premier League game against Crystal Palace was pretty much a cut and paste replica of the last meeting between the teams, when Burnley won at Selhurst Park with a single first half goal scored, on that occasion, by Ben Mee.
This time it was Chris Wood who supplied the only goal, firing in from close range after Jay Rodriguez had seized on a slack defensive header from Palace’s Cheickou Kouyate and threaded the ball into Wood’s path who was never going to miss.
Jay Rod’s re-introduction into Burnley’s starting line-up proved to be an important factor in their victory. He is an experienced and intelligent footballer and he demonstrated those qualities to great effect, finding pockets of space to pick holes in what was a hesitant Palace defence.
With the possible exceptions of Phil Bardsley, back on the bench after his period of quarantine, and the still injured Jack Cork; this was Burnley’s strongest starting eleven. Fans like me have been saying to anyone who was prepared to listen – and some who weren’t – that Burnley would reveal their true selves once they had their principal players available for action. Monday’s game went some way to proving the hypothesis.
Palace, by contrast, were deprived of the services of Wilfried Zaha who is in isolation after testing positive for Covid 19. We wish him a speedy recovery, but I must confess to a surge of relief when his name was absent from the visitors’ line up. Zaha is Palace’s main weapon, a nuclear warhead amidst an arsenal otherwise comprising of pea shooters.
Zaha contributes an implausibly high percentage of Palace’s goals; when he is missing, Jordan Ayew, Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke struggle to pick up the slack.
Not that Palace didn’t have their opportunities; shortly after Johann Berg Gudmundsson came within the width of the crossbar of doubling Burnley’s lead, Dwight McNeill’s ill-advised back past put Batshuayi through on goal. Before he could pull the trigger however, he found Nick Pope advancing from his line to block his path.
Late in the game, Benteke’s point blank effort was repelled by Pope’s spread-eagled body; demonstrating once again the speed, awareness, reflexes and bravery required of a goalkeeper of the highest class, which Pope demonstrably is.
So a performance and a result which was quintessentially Burnley, solid and functional; the “results machine” might just be back in working order.
Following the recent deaths of Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Ray Clemence, news has broken today of the passing of Diego Maradona after a heart attack at the age of sixty.
After Pele, Maradona was the finest player I have seen in over half a century of following the game, but whilst Pele’s career reached a wonderful climax at the 1970 World Cup, Maradona’s ended in the disgrace of being sent home from Argentina’s 1994 squad after a failed drug test.
He will be best remembered of course for his exploits in almost single-handedly sweeping his country to triumph in 1986. In the quarter-final of that tournament against England, we witnessed Maradona at his best and his worst. I doubt he expected to get away with punching the ball over Peter Shilton and into the England net, but he did, and his revelling in getting away with his deceit left a bitter taste which the passing years have done little to dispel.
His second goal, shortly afterwards, was probably the best individual goal ever scored as he picked the ball up on the half-way line and scythed through the England defence.
England were knocked out of the 1986 World Cup by a cheat and a genius, both inhabiting the same body.
Dave Thornley rounds up the Burnley week, while Sean Dyche searches to seek a method for not being on the receiving end of another five-goal rout at the hands of Manchester City. (TEC.)