Clarets robbed by cruel late twist of fate
As we crept into the third minute of stoppage time yesterday, most of Turf Moor fell silent as Arsenal bundled the ball home to beat us 1-0 and undo all the work we’d done in the previous ninety plus minutes.
Against one of the finest attacking teams in English football, we’d reduced them to scraps, made more and better chances for ourselves, and did not in any way at all deserve to come out of the game with absolutely nothing.
The goal, from my vantage point looked scrappy but I was quickly getting news coming through that it was offside and handball. That it went beyond the two minutes of time doesn’t bother me, that’s a minimum and exactly the same happened in the Hull game recently. Television pictures however cleared up the offside issue, the players are very much onside, but it also confirmed the fact that the goal should have been disallowed for handball.
Arsenal had simply got away with it. They won a fortunate corner when a shot going nowhere got a flick off Jeff Hendrick. They took it short, and when it came in it was Theo Walcott who headed it on. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Laurent Koscielny both went for it, it was Koscielny who got there, playing the ball onto his arm from where it went into the net. Referee Craig Pawson should have seen it, absolutely no doubt about that, but he didn’t, Arsenal celebrated and Burnley, who had deserved so much from the game, were crestfallen on and off the pitch. There was just time to restart with Dean Marney firing a shot at goal from the half way line in a desperate attempt to get something before Pawson, who brings controversy so often to Burnley games, blew his final whistle.
Arsène Wenger was able to celebrate his 20th anniversary with a victory but even he knew they’d got away with it and admitted so in after match interviews.
This was always one of the games I had down as one where any points would be a bonus. In truth, our Premier League survival hopes will not be dependent on how we play against the likes of the top teams and that certainly includes Arsenal who haven’t finished a season outside the top four since Bruce Rioch’s one season in charge when even then they claimed fifth place.
With that in mind I was quite relaxed about it, nothing like I was six days earlier when I was very much nervous ahead of our game against Watford, one I thought we might have a good chance of getting something from.
We all know now just how well we played against Watford so it was absolutely no surprise when the team news came through with no changes, the same starting eleven and the same seven substitutes, not as though we have too many options just now.
As expected, the Gunners started on the front foot but it was obvious even in the opening minutes that Burnley were more than capable of dealing with a lot of what they had to offer. I suppose when you see the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ӧzil on the pitch, you have to have some concern but we were marshalling them very well and they certainly didn’t create too many, if any, difficult moments for Tom Heaton.
And when the first real chance of the half came, probably the only real chance of the half, it fell to us. Matt Lowton has come in for some recent criticism, particularly after a difficult game at Leicester, but he’s come through that with two very good home performances and he set up Sam Vokes beautifully only for Sam to head wide when he looked a certain scorer. Had it gone in, the Arsenal reaction may well have been fierce. As it happened they did have a spell just around the half hour but it came to nothing and certainly didn’t provide them with anything close to a clear cut chance.
We reached half time without any major concerns and it had been a first half to be very pleased with. Yes, they’d had a lot of possession. Yes, we’d had a lot of defending to do, but we’d also pushed forward at every opportunity and there could be no suggestion at all that we were in any way fortunate to be level.
I sensed they might step things up in the second half but for the most part there was little change. Alexis did force one outstanding save from Heaton and also fired in a shot that just clipped the outside of the post, but this was not one way stuff and we had just as many opportunities at the other end.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who I thought had an outstanding game, surprised me by climbing to get in a header which forced Petr Cech into a difficult save, stretching to push it round the post, and Michael Keane, from a Gudmundsson corner, saw his towering header come back off the bar. What a game that would have set up had it gone in with around a quarter of an hour to go.
Arsenal did push us back in the closing stages. They did so in a very un-Arsenal like fashion at times by playing a more direct style and getting the ball into our box. But we stood absolutely firm. Defensively we were brilliant and the two central defenders, yet again, were almost faultless in their play.
I recall looking at the clock showing around five minutes to go. Realising we might still have some defending to do, I was confident we could get this point. For a team like us, every point counts in this league no matter who it’s against. Against a side like Arsenal it is precious.
Up went the board for a further two minutes. We got through them although as we reached that second minute the ball was in the quadrant for that corner. The result of it was devastating. It would have been even with a legitimate goal because simply we did not deserve that. For it to be a wrongly awarded goal doesn’t make it any more devastating but it certainly makes it very, very frustrating.
There was a defiant roar from the crowd as we restarted but, as the final whistle blew and supporters started to make their way home, that hushed silence returned. It was cruel, it was wrong as we’ve all seen now, and, probably like most Burnley fans, I got home on a real downer.
I’m still upset at how it all ended, I’m still devastated at the cruel loss of that point we so richly deserved, but I’m recovering and, despite the result, I have a lot more confidence in us now this season than I probably had 24 hours ago.
We were superb against Watford last Monday, but we were also superb yesterday and it has given me real belief that this Burnley squad is very capable, with better fortune than was on offer yesterday, of giving it a real good go at staying up this time.
This Burnley team has a very good goalkeeper. The defence has had a couple of bad away days, and that issue needs to be resolved, but when required at home, against the likes of Liverpool and now Arsenal, it has been immense.
The midfield was sensational again yesterday. Steven Defour was forced off with an injury but we know how good he is. Jeff Hendrick is looking the part without a doubt and how fantastic was Marney again yesterday? He’s back to his best and showing us just what we missed when he was out injured. George Boyd is playing as well as he has for us and Gudmundsson is, on the form he’s shown this week, looking like a steal from Charlton.
As for Sam up front; it’s not an easy task playing there against a side like Arsenal. He did miss that chance but other than that he put in another fantastic shift that the Arsenal defenders will know all about now.
I don’t know whether we will stay up, none of us do, but I really do have more confidence. Only that cruel late twist robbed us of a superb point yesterday. We know it, our players and staff know it and Arsenal know it with even Wenger showing us great respect with his comment after the game. He said after they came last time that he hoped we stopped up; I’m sure he’ll think the same this time after that performance. Despite the result, it was one for us to be proud of.
I just wish there wasn’t an international break now. I want us to get back out playing. I can’t wait for Southampton.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour (Scott Arfield 62), George Boyd, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Aiden O’Neill, Michael Kightly, Patrick Bamford.
Arsenal: Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustapha, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, Granit Xhaka (Mohamed Elneny 71), Theo Walcott, Mesut Ӧzil, Alex Iwobi (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 71), Alexis Sanchez. Subs not used: David Ospina, Rob Holding, Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel, Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
Referee: Craig Pawson (Sheffield).
Attendance: 20,982 (including 2,402 from Arsenal).
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