TALKING POINTS: Southampton 3, Burnley 2
Burnley saw a two-goal lead evaporate on Easter Sunday as they were beaten by Southampton at St Mary’s.
The Clarets were in dreamland inside half an hour as a Chris Wood penalty and Matej Vydra penalty put them 2-0 up.
However, Stuart Armstrong and former Claret Danny Ings levelled matters before half-time, before Nathan Redmond’s winner.
Here are some of the talking points:
Before the game, 32% of Burnley’s 22 Premier League goals had come in the first 15 minutes of games - seven - a higher share than any side in the top flight.
And they were quick out of the blocks again, with Chris Wood’s penalty opener coming after 12 minutes after another bright start, building further on that with Matej Vydra’s second before the half hour.
As in previous away games at Crystal Palace and Everton, it looked like Burnley’s opening salvo had blown away the home side, their high intensity press forcing mistakes, penning their opponents in their own half, and ultimately leading to goals.
The intelligent blocking of passing lanes and harrying the man in possession is when Burnley are at their best, allowing them to control games and play their mixed football.
However, unlike those occasions, the Clarets were unable to manage the game anywhere near well enough, allowing the Saints to pull one back within three minutes, and equalise just before the break.
That gave the hosts the momentum, and their second half winner was always coming.
Burnley’s late rally fell short, as they suffered only a second defeat in nine league games.
When Burnley get their noses in front, you back them not to lose at the very least.
But against a side which had lost 10 of their previous 12 league matches, and had scored just five goals in their last eight home games - never more than once in a match - they somehow contrived to throw away a two-goal advantage and lose for the first time in over six years at this level, when they were beaten 3-2 at home by Crystal Palace in January 2015.
Nick Pope was maybe taken by surprise by Stuart Armstrong taking his shot early, his effort not finding the corner of the net by any means.
And Ben Mee won’t need telling that with Danny Ings breathing down his neck, safety first was the required action, to find row Z, not dally and give the former Claret the chance to capitalise brilliantly on a rare rick from the skipper.
It wasn’t just the goals conceded, however, with Southampton going on to grab a second half winner - the Saints had more shots and more on target than in any other Premier League game this season.
Pope was required to make a quite magnificent stop from Armstrong, and again from Ings in the build up to Nathan Redmond’s winner, with James Ward-Prowse almost snapping the bar with one strike, which had the home PA prematurely booming out Blur’s Song 2 in celebration.
Dyche felt his side’s defending was naive, and while Erik Pieters’ injury wasn’t helpful - the Dutchman was enjoying a fine game going forward and in defence - this wasn’t a young, inexperienced Burnley defence, it was the first choice goalkeeper, and centre back pairing, with Matt Lowton, whose form currently makes him number one right back, with Charlie Taylor - Burnley’s top left back when fully fit - coming on for Pieters.
That made Burnley’s defensive collapse all the more puzzling.
While the side were so effective in their pressing in the opening half hour, they ended up being punished in the transition.
Danny Ings was out for a month before the game with a muscle injury, and it was Sod’s law he would return against his former club, for whom he has discovered an appetite for scoring against.
Ings, who netted 37 league goals in 122 appearances for the Clarets, has now netted in three successive appearances against Burnley, and, with one against Liverpool thrown in, he is now the first player to score goals in four straight games against former clubs in the Premier League.
Burnley know all about his work ethic, on top of his quality, and we saw all of that at St Mary’s, his flick around the corner leading to Armstrong’s goal, before he forced the slip from Mee and produced a quite brilliant composed finish to equalise.
He was also involved in the winner, his shot superbly saved by Pope, before Theo Walcott recycled the ball to the far post for Redmond to volley home.
Some Burnley fans were angered by his exuberant celebrations for his goal, but for all that Ings gave to the club on and off the pitch, he can celebrate how he chooses, especially after another frustrating spell out injured.
Ings is yet to sign a lucrative deal offered by the Saints, hoping for Champions League football, and his former club Liverpool and champions-elect Manchester City have been linked with a move.
He wouldn’t look out of place at either club.
WHAT IS A PENALTY? PART 657
When Pieters was scissored on the byeline by Kyle Walker-Peters, in real time, from the stands, it looked a penalty, and all the appeals from Burnley players suggested so.
Andre Marriner waved play on, however, before he got word from Stockley Park to review the incident.
Marriner went to the screen on halfway to have another look, and belatedly pointed to the spot.
It was the 100th Premier League penalty of the season, and only Burnley’s second - yet again the lowest in the league.
Wood thumped home, and Burnley have not missed one of their fleeting spot kicks since Hal Robson-Kanu childishly scuffed the spot for Andre Gray at Reading five years ago.
However, late on, with Burnley chasing an equaliser, Dwight McNeil’s cross was flicked on by Jay Rodriguez, and though Wood threw himself at the ball, Fraser Forster was able to save.
Replays showed Jan Bednarek wanted to swap shirts with Wood before full time, almost tearing it off his back, but there was no intervention from VAR on this occasion.
You can say Wood was given the advantage and should have scored, but would he have had a better chance to score if he wasn’t being yanked back? Yes.
As Sean Dyche said after the game, if it was in the middle of the pitch, a foul is given, so why not in the area?
KEEP CALM AND BACK BURNLEY
After the defeat, if you looked on the social media channels, views fluctuated from mass panic to relief, as Newcastle, Fulham and Brighton led at various times.
Only Newcastle were able to claim a point, however, meaning Burnley are still seven clear of Fulham, with a game in hand, four ahead of Newcastle, and one in front of Brighton.
There is a lot of talk of a “must-win” game against Newcastle on Sunday, and while it would be an ideal situation that Burnley pick up the points, come what may, you have to back Dyche’s side to collect enough points in their remaining eight games to secure a sixth-successive Premier League campaign.
Sunday was only a second defeat in nine league games, and while you always felt Southampton’s winner was coming, Burnley were a touch hard done to not to claim a point, given the shirt pull on Wood and a couple of other bits of chances they created.
Wood could have had three or four goals on the day, as well as his assist for Vydra, and their blossoming partnership is another reason to be cheerful.
The pair combined for Wood’s early toe poke that forced a corner, before linking to great effect for Vydra’s volley, and there is a clear understanding developing between the pair, who now have five goals between them in the last four games.