Burnley further staked their claim for a spot in the Europa League with a crucial home win over fellow challengers Leicester City to go nine points clear of the Foxes.
Burnley were in front after only six minutes through striker Chris Wood. The move was started by Ashley Barnes who took full advantage of an error from Wes Morgan who cheaply gave the ball away. Barnes picked up Wood who darted into the area to score his fourth goal in his last five appearances. It could be argued a little bit of fortune favoured the Lancashire side, with Kasper Schmeichel saving the initial effort from Wood before the latter scoring from the rebound.
It wasn’t long before Sean Dyche’s side doubled the lead, this time, inside nine minutes. An in-swinging corner from Johann Berg Gudmundsson found Kevin Long who towered over the Leicester City defence to score a second. Talk about a quick start!
Not long after, the visitors were on the break, with Riyad Mahrez running towards goal. His rather adventurous effort was caught by Nick Pope who did well to prevent a goal. The attempt from Mahrez wasn’t bad, given he has the ability to score from that sort of range. The deflection from Long didn’t make the catch easy for Pope but he was able to make the catch nonetheless.
With 33 minutes played, Claude Puel’s side continued to threaten, with Demarai Gray making a perfect cross to Mahrez who headed at goal, but Pope was equal to the effort. Great cross from Gray, and an equally great effort from the Algerian!
Shortly before half time, Harry Maguire crossed to an in-rushing Jamie Vardy who headed at goal, but Pope was alert to the effort, and a fine catch! Nick Pope was instrumental in denying the Foxes so far!
Deep into stoppage time, a free-kick from Mahrez struck the post in what was the last play of the half. You could say Leicester City were “unfortunate” not to be in front.
Nine minutes in, Gudmundsson attempted a soaring effort from outside the box. His opportunity sailed high but was close. Not a bad effort from the Iceland man.
Claude Puel’s side were influencing on goal when a close effort from Jamie Vardy was parried away for a corner from Nick Pope.
There was a controversial moment with 66 minutes gone when Jack Cork was alleged to have handled in the area following a short strike from Ben Chilwell. Martin Atkinson waved away protests, however.
It was all going on down the other end with just over 20 minutes to go when Chilwell was accused of handball, then Kelechi Iheanacho also being accused of a foul on Aaron Lennon. Again, Atkinson waved away both protests. Talk about drama!
Into the final 20 minutes, Puel’s side got back into the game. Iheanacho darted into the Burnley half to find Vardy who was doing likewise into the box to score his fifth successive away goal!
Leicester City fans thought there was an equaliser when Fousseni Diabate crossed to Vardy who was in the box, but Long smothered the potential goal by grabbing a crucial touch on the ball to divert the cross.
Despite the visitors’ effort, it was Dyche’s side who came out on top to move nine points clear of their closest challengers and move to within two points of Arsenal (who play Newcastle United) in a bid to qualify for the Europa League.
Thoughts on the game
If it wasn’t for Nick Pope, Leicester City could’ve easily won this game by a fairly big margin, but it was his heroics which kept Leicester City at bay.
There were some penalty shouts which I’ll touch on. The first one which saw Cork alleged to have committed a handball happened just outside the area, so I’d give that as a free kick, the second which saw Chilwell “handle” in the area, the 21-year-old could do very little about that, and the third seeing Iheanacho “foul” Lennon would be soft penalty to give, so all decisions, I felt were right.
Burnley host a spirited Chelsea side who came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Southampton whilst Leicester face strugglers Southampton at home, with the Saints smarting from their latest defeat. (both Thursday – 7:45pm kick-off).
With both sides facing fairly difficult run-ins for a place in next season’s Europa League, which side do you think has the bottle?
Feature image credit: Adam Haworth