Burnley took a huge step towards securing their top-flight status after coming from behind to beat Bournemouth and move eight points clear of the bottom three.
The Clarets, who began the day in 17th place, made the worst possible start at Vitality Stadium, Ashley Barnes sending a header into his own net under pressure from Nathan Ake.
But Sean Dyche’s side responded brilliantly, scoring twice in as many first-half minutes to turn the game on its head.
Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic misjudged Ashley Westwood’s corner, allowing Chris Wood to nod into an empty net from point-blank range.
The turnaround was complete two minutes later when Chris Mepham’s poor clearance landed at the feet of Westwood, who finished with aplomb.
Barnes atoned for his first-half own goal to give the visitors breathing space in the second half, slotting home Wood’s cut-back to put clear daylight between Dyche’s team and the relegation zone.
A run of four straight defeats prior to last weekend’s 2-0 win over Wolves had left Burnley sliding alarmingly towards the drop zone.
Another reverse at Bournemouth would have increased the pressure on Dyche’s team before their game with fellow strugglers Cardiff next week, but the Clarets manager could hardly have wished for a better response from his players after such an early setback on the south coast.
Ake would have had a clear sight of goal had Barnes not tried to get a touch to Ryan Fraser’s inswinging free-kick, but the Burnley forward could only divert the ball beyond his own keeper Tom Heaton and into the corner of the net.
The visitors were gifted a route back into the game when Begovic completely misjudged Westwood’s corner, the Bosnian flapping at thin air before Wood directed his downward header into the net.
Burnley’s second was just as poor from a Cherries perspective. Dwight McNeil’s low cross should have been easily dealt with by Mepham, but the 21-year-old scuffed his clearance straight to Westwood, whose powerful effort beat Ake on the goalline.
For the Clarets’ third, Bournemouth appeared to switch off while appealing for a throw-in on the Burnley left and the visitors took full advantage, Wood beating Begovic to a low cross before teeing up Barnes.
Dyche’s side could have added a fourth late on, but Ben Mee failed to hit the target with a far-post header.
Manager Eddie Howe has repeatedly stressed that the Cherries are “not yet safe” from Premier League relegation this season, despite their comfortable 10-point cushion over the bottom three.
It will take a spectacular collapse for Bournemouth to lose their top-flight status, but Howe will be deeply frustrated with his team’s defending after such a promising start.
All three of the visitors’ goals came from Burnley crosses which should have been comfortably dealt with by the home defence.
Begovic in particular endured an afternoon to forget, while Mepham also struggled against the physicality of Wood and Barnes.
The hosts looked lively at the other end in the first half, with David Brooks firing straight at Heaton from a good position and Callum Wilson sending a header narrowly over the crossbar.
But the Cherries were almost non-existent as an attacking threat in the second half as Burnley’s defence stood firm to secure the points.
You Might Also Like… Crystal Palace 1 – 0 Newcastle
Crystal Palace eased any worries of relegation with a hard-fought victory over Newcastle at St James’ Park.
Eagles skipper Luka Milivojevic scored the decisive goal from the spot after Wilfried Zaha had been felled in the penalty box by DeAndre Yedlin late on.
Both sides had seen goals disallowed in the first half; Salomon Rondon was called offside after bundling home Matt Ritchie’s knock down before James Tomkins fired in from a corner only for the flag to be raised due to James McArthur’s offside position.
The victory lifts Palace to 12th while the Magpies drop to 15th, though they are still seven points clear of Cardiff who currently occupy the final spot in the relegation zone.
Had Palace beaten Watford last month they would have had an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley to look forward to this weekend. Instead, it was a trip to St James’ Park in the Premier League. Continue reading…
Source – BBC Sport