Much has been previously written about the space that Manchester City are currently occupying in the collective heads of Burnley’s players, coaching staff, and management that it would seem superfluous for me to add to it here.
That said, the 2-0 defeat suffered by the Clarets last Wednesday night at least represented a marginal improvement in the score line, and the general level of performance compared to previous recent encounters and enabled Burnley to emerge from this most daunting of fixtures with their confidence, if not intact, then not too seriously dented.
The City defeat followed a similar setback at the hands of Chelsea, and back-to-back defeats, irrespective of the circumstances and the quality of the opposition, are never easy to stomach and even less so when they serve as a prelude to a fixture against visitors who are also camped in the bottom echelons of the Premier League table.
Yesterday's visitors to Turf Moor, Brighton and Hove Albion have proved themselves in the past to be awkward opponents, more so when they arrived in East Lancashire with a spring in their collective steps after recent wins over Leeds, Spurs and Liverpool.
They carried this momentum with them into the opening passages of yesterday’s play, edging possession and building threatening moves. Nevertheless, when they took the lead after 36 minutes, the goal came as a surprise; an innocuous Pascal Gross corner found Lewis Dunk enjoying the luxury of a free header which he directed towards the corner of the Burnley goal.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson was stationed on the post for the express purpose of repelling such headers. Unfortunately, he had drifted away from his position and allowed the ball to somehow squeeze past him and root in the bottom corner of the Nick Pope’s net.
Burnley are not noted for the vivacity of their attacking play, nor are they accustomed to turning around a losing position. Yesterday however, Burnley came out for the second half with purpose and vigour and throughout the remainder of the game they held sway and, in the process, produced some of their most fluid and coherent play of the season.
The equaliser, when it came, represented redemption for Gudmundsson; whose precise finish from the edge of the penalty area followed a passage of pinball around the Brighton box, with keeper Sanchez parrying Erik Pieters’ shot invitingly into the Icelandic international’s path.
Gudmundsson has many admirable qualities; he is strong, hard-working, and physically imposing. Injuries have unfortunately often punctuated his career but if he can stay fit and add more goals like yesterdays to his game, then Burnley will have a game changer of immense value on their hands.
Thereafter Burnley continued to press; Matej Vydra had a strong game in Burnley’s attack and he came close on a couple of occasions; pounding the turf with his fists in frustration at not having managed to convert two golden chances into goals.
Ashley Barnes headed into the Brighton goal only to see an offside flag raised. The TV commentators did not dwell on the decision, but when the replay was shown, it was hard indeed to detect where the offside transgression had occurred. Sean Dyche earned himself a ticking off from referee Anthony Taylor for making the same point (if a little more forcibly) to the fourth official.
It ill-becomes teams in Burnley’s position to become sniffy over the gaining of a point from a Premier League fixture, but the feeling persists that given Burnley’s second half performance this represented the loss of two points rather than the gaining of one.
It should be noted however that when the teams met at the Amex Stadium earlier in the season, it was Brighton who did the pressing and were disappointed with the draw. These things even themselves out over the course of a season.
Dave Thornley having recovered from a dice with Covid resumes his post-match analysis. It’s the FA Cup and Roy Hodgson up next. (TEC.)