Talking Points: Wolves 0 Burnley 4 (FOUR)

Burnley took one giant leap towards retaining their Premier League status as Chris Wood's hat-trick was the impetus for victory over Wolves at Molineux.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 8:09 am

The New Zealander netted all three goals in a dominant first half as the Clarets recorded their biggest away win in the top flight since 1965 [versus Sunderland].

Ashley Westwood then capped a fine afternoon in the West Midlands when beating Rui Patricio from the edge of the box with five minutes remaining.

The result opened the chasm to the bottom three to nine points with just five games left to play this season.

Burnley's English midfielder Ashley Westwood (R) is mobbed by teammates after scoring his team's fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton.

Here are the talking points.

HAT-TRICK HERO

When the Kiwi striker rose above Leander Dendoncker to convert Dwight McNeil's corner, he joined a very exclusive group of Premier League goalscorers.

Only Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Jamie Vardy, Heung-Min Son and Alexandre Lacazette had managed 10-or-more goals in four successive seasons in the top flight.

Chris Wood of Burnley scores their side's third goal past Rui Patricio of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at Molineux on April 25, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England.

But when heading past Rui Patricio in the 44th minute - the goal that brought up his first hat-trick in the division - the New Zealander earned his pass to the VIP section.

That record speaks for itself. When the former Leeds United frontman is on song, there aren't many better or more consistent finishers at this level.

There is no doubt that the 29-year-old had endured a quieter campaign than normal prior to his return from an injury lay-off last month.

But Wood has now matched the return of Marcus Rashford and Danny Ings, he's ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and he's breathing down the neck of Ollie Watkins, Vardy and Lacazette.

Burnley's New Zealand striker Chris Wood (C) scores his team's second goal past Wolverhampton Wanderers' Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio (L) during the English Premier League football match at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton.

The opener against Burnley s fellow founders of the Football League was as accomplished as they come, firing across Wolves' highly-rated Portuguese goalkeeper, from right to left, and picking out the far corner.

Wood's second - a product of the away side's effective counter-press - was nothing more than a tap-in at the point of conversion.

However, the striker had to be reactive when McNeil closed Adama Traore and honed in on the blind side of England international Conor Coady to score.

The third was his bread and butter, using momentum, movement and his physicality to get up above his marker and power a header home.

Burnley's New Zealand striker Chris Wood (C) scores his team's first goal during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on April 25, 2021.

It was the first time a player had scored a first half hat-trick for the Clarets in 18 years when Gareth Taylor put three past Watford in a 7-4 defeat at Turf Moor.

And Wood - who is only the third player to score an away first half Premier League hat-trick alongside Chris Sutton and Michael Owen, is now Burnley's outright top scorer in the PL with 43 goals, two ahead of Ashley Barnes having played 51 games fewer.

CLARETS COMBO

"In possession I think I need to impact more games with goals and assists. That’s the thing I always look to improve on.

"I feel I can do better defensively. But I start work every day in training and believe I can be a better player."

Ahead of the Clarets' trip to Old Trafford earlier in the month - with McNeil facing the club that released him as a teenager - the winger acknowledged that he was by no means the finished article.

Burnley's English midfielder Ashley Westwood scores his team's fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on April 25, 2021.

The Young Lion, who already has more than 100 PL appearances to his name, was desperate to improve his number of goals and assists.

And he duly obliged, setting up Wood on two occasions against Nuno Espirito Santo's side to help ease some of the pressure.

Burnley's second goal was all his own work; applying the pressure high up the pitch, turning over the ball and supplying the cross.

The next was a much more simplistic approach but, once more, demonstrated how well he and Wood combine.

A total of 63 percent of McNeil's assists in the top flight have had Wood at the end of them. That accounts for 10 of his 16 assists.

Long may that fruitful combination continue!

BALANCING ACT

Finding that 'perfect balance' is the holy grail for all those in football management at all levels of the game.

It sounds uncomplicated in theory; score at one end of the pitch while keeping the ball out of the net at the other.

But, when put into practice, it's not quite that simple.

The Clarets have been renowned for their defensive resolve during Sean Dyche's watch.

That, however, has occasionally come at the cost of any productivity in the final third.

Burnley had given the impression that they had mastered that equilibrium against Everton at Goodison Park - fashioning an array of openings while simultaneously restricting the hosts.

They enhanced that school of thought in the early stages away at Southampton, only to show vulnerabilities when committing men forward as the game wore on.

The same could be said for the game against Newcastle United at Turf Moor when Allan Saint-Maximin further exposed that fragility through the centre.

Burnley had a more familiar look about them when operating in a 4-4-1-1 at Old Trafford as the visitors went within minutes of claiming a deserved point.

And they stepped it up away at Wolves - putting in arguably their most complete performance of the season.

Nick Pope was largely untested - his only act was to turn Traore's deflected cross around the post - while the away side could quite easily have added to their four goals.

Matej Vydra was thwarted by the toe of Wilfried Boly when the Ivorian defender atoned for his error.

The Czech Republic international later turned the ball over the bar from close range when connecting with Charlie Taylor's cross.

He then had a goal chalked off in the second half when a VAR check confirmed that the striker was half-a-yard offside.

James Tarkowski headed wide from Ashley Westwood's corner, Matt Lowton was denied from distance while Wood was denied a fourth late on when opting for placement over power.

SIX IN SUCCESSION

Despite all the challenges they've faced, the Clarets appear to have sewn up yet another term in the top flight.

Burnley's latest triumph - their fifth on their travels this season - opened the gap to Fulham to nine points with just 15 to play for.

It's by no means insurmountable, especially with Sean Dyche's side paying a visit to Craven Cottage next month, but it's a healthy lead to hold at this stage of the campaign.

Burnley picked the right time to complete their first top flight double over Wolves in 64 years while inflicting their opponent's heaviest home PL defeat since March 2012, when they lost 5-0 to Manchester United.