Back to basics keeps Burnley revival rolling along nicely

Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood on target in victory against a tame Wolves side

Chris Wood scores  Burnley’s second goal during the Premier League game against Wolves at Turf Moor. Photograph: Jon Super/EPA

Chris Wood scores Burnley’s second goal during the Premier League game against Wolves at Turf Moor. Photograph: Jon Super/EPA

 

Burnley 2 Wolves 1

Burnley’s revival continued with a comfortable win over Wolves to stretch their unbeaten run to four games since their mauling at the Etihad and claim a valuable eight points from fixtures in December.

It was fitting Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes should score the goals, for though Wolves enjoyed most of the possession and managed nearly as many attempts on goal, they turned out to be poorly equipped to resist Burnley’s standard tactic of pumping high balls into the area for their front two to try to reach.

The visitors must have known Burnley would be direct and physical, Sean Dyche’s gameplans have not altered much over the years, yet even with three centre halves Wolves struggled to counter the aerial threat.

The first half was a fairly tame and featureless affair until Barnes gave Burnley the lead just past the half-hour. Wolves had looked the likelier side to score up to that point, because they had players such as Rúben Neves and João Moutinho moving the ball dangerously around the edge of the Burnley area, yet for all the visitors’ possession they offered space behind their backline that their opponents eventually exploited.

Wood might have opened the scoring from Dwight McNeil’s inviting cross, but though he managed to connect with an overhead kick the shot flew harmlessly wide.

Barnes could have done better with a good chance before the goal arrived, going for power rather than placement and blasting the ball straight at Rui Patrício, but when Charlie Taylor sent over a cross from the left that found him practically leaning on the far post the Burnley striker could hardly miss. He did not have much room to operate or much of a view of the target, but once he got his head to the ball Patrício had little chance of keeping out a firm downward header.

Burnley thought they should have had a penalty a few minutes earlier, or at least Robbie Brady did, though the officials were probably correct in deciding that the Irish winger and Rayan Aït Nouri had simply gone for the same ball at the same time. Ashley Westwood had shaped for a shot, which might have been his better option, before flicking the ball out at the last moment for Brady to run on to, but he had slightly telegraphed his intention and the Wolves left back was alert to the danger.

The other coming-together in the first half involved Ben Mee and Nélson Semedo and gave a fair illustration of the daftness of the present policy of linesmen being encouraged not to raise their flags until the ball has been played. Semedo began chasing a loose ball over the top of the Burnley defence from a position that was clearly offside, yet the flag stayed down so Mee was obliged to chase him.

The defender caught his man just as he was in the act of shooting, dispossessing him expertly in the six-yard box but hurting himself in the process. Mee limped through the rest of the half, while play restarted with a free-kick for offside halfway back up the field. Ludicrous, especially when one considers that had Mee mistimed his tackle he might have injured himself more seriously or hurt his opponent.

Whatever Nuno Espírito Santo said to his players at the break did not have much effect, for Wolves began the second half like an accident waiting to happen. First Romain Saïss got into a mix-up with Patrício to concede an unnecessary corner, then Neves miscontrolled from a Semedo throw-in and allowed Josh Brownhill to crash a shot against the top of the bar.

Brownhill should probably have scored, with the amount of time and space he found for himself, but it did not matter much because Wood did put the ball in the net a couple of minutes later. Westwood sent over a free kick that Mee headed back across the six-yard line, Barnes jumped for it with a couple of defenders and made some contact, with the rest of the defence standing around watching as Wood lashed the loose ball into the roof of the net from about two feet out.

It was not the tidiest goal but there did not seem any offside or illegal challenge issues and after taking a second look the VAR team allowed it to stand.

Wood came close to extending Burnley’s lead, denied by Patrício’s extended leg after he seemed to have done most of the work in rounding the goalkeeper, before Nick Pope sprang into action at the other end to beat out a well-struck Neves shot from outside the area.

The game was given a frantic ending it did not really deserve when Josh Benson came on for the last four minutes and managed to make contact with Fábio Silva in the area before he had managed to touch the ball.

Silva scored from the spot to make stoppage-time more entertaining, but even with a long five minutes Wolves were unable to find a second. – Guardian

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