England stoke up the heat as Clarets pay the penalty at Molineux
The Bank Holiday weekend certainly threw in a busy day for us yesterday with a trip to Molineux where we drew 1-1 against Wolves to give us our first away point of the season in the Premier League.
The season is very much up and running. We’ve got our first win, lost for the first time and now with this point secured our first draw although it was so, so, very close to a win and one that we would have fully deserved. We saw Ashley Barnes give us an early lead, a lead that we held onto until Raúl Jiménez stroked home a penalty in the seventh minute of stoppage time, apparently the latest goal scored in any Premier League game since Alexis Sánchez did exactly the same against us in the eighth minute of stoppage time at Arsenal back in January 2017.
It all meant a disappointing end to what had been a good Burnley performance on what was surely the hottest temperatures for some while that I’ve seen an English league game played in. The opening day of a football season often brings with it some better weather. We didn’t get that this year; we got nothing but wind and pouring rain for the visit of Southampton, but yesterday’s game was played in such fierce heat that it reminded me very much of our visit to Athens just a year ago.
I’d like to report a trouble free journey down to the Black Country but alas no. Having opted for the route past Manchester Airport and onto the A556, we encountered a long delay because of an accident just before reaching the M6. It meant the cancellation of our planned pub stop, but a fine hostelry in Penkridge, just a mile or so off the beaten track, came to our rescue with some quality food and fine ales.
By the time we’d parked up at Wolves, England were just about to lose their ninth wicket in the test match. It looked as though we’d made a valiant effort and was leaving the thoughts that things might have been different if we’d batted poorly in the first innings and scored about 120. And then, aided and abetted by Jack Leach, Ben Stokes started to lower the number of runs required from the 73 we still needed when Stuart Broad, predictably, got out quickly. By the time we decided to go into the ground, we only needed eight and when that winning run was scored the whole concourse on the upper tier erupted, as I’m sure it must have done in every part of the Wolves’ ground.
So absorbed in this Ashes test, I’d all but forgotten the team news but, as we all expected, it was same again although Kevin Long and Matěj Vydra did replace Phil Bardsley and Ben Gibson on the bench.
Wolves had really decided to turn up the heat. On a day when the temperatures soared, they continued this farce of increasing the heat with their pre-match antics but a real positive for them with their introduction of rail seats behind both goals. I happened to sit yesterday but I think it’s the first time I’ve been in such an area for a football match and it really is the way forward. Well done to the forward thinking Wolves on this one.
How well we started the game. Wolves had a couple of attacks but we saw immediately that they were going to have a difficult afternoon as first Ben Mee and then James Tarkowski dealt with potentially tricky situations. Our two central defenders had given early indications that they might be in top form and nothing happened subsequently in the game to alter that.
It wasn’t just the defenders though and our go to man Ashley Barnes was at it again. He’d already fired one left foot shot just wide but with only 13 minutes gone he added to his own personal collection of goal of the season contenders with what I think could have been his best yet as he recorded goal number four in only our third game.
It came from a long ball out which eventually Dwight McNeil was able to head down to him. He took one touch off his chest before striking the sweetest of shots on the half volley from around 25 yards which flew into the bottom corner leaving Rui Patrício with no chance.
I wrote in my match preview two days ago that should Barnes score he would become the first Burnley player to score in the first three games of a top flight season since Frank Casper in 1967 who scored against Coventry, West Ham and Sheffield Wednesday. It’s the first time at any level since Paul Comstive found the net in the first three league games of the 1988/89 season. The last two score in the first four games? That was George Beel in the 1926/27 season; he scored in all of the first five games that season which included two hat tricks.
What a start, a goal up so early and if we thought Wolves would come storming back at us, they simply didn’t and that was down to how well we played. The Wolves goalkeeper did really well to save from Chris Wood but just before that he was so fortunate as we hit the woodwork three times from one effort. Mee headed a McNeil cross against the bar. It came down only for a defender to knock it onto his own post and then the goalkeeper, trying to push it clear, found the post again.
It was all happening down at the far end with very little to concern us at our end as we dealt easily with anything they had to offer and the only disappointing in the first half was the fact that we only went in with a one goal lead.
Although Wolves stepped things up a bit after the break and had a lot of the ball, they didn’t really threaten us too much at all. In fact, we came the closest to scoring the next goal. Barnes was so close with one effort when Matt Lowton had played him in while Westwood fired one effort just over.
If only we could get another goal, I thought with that the game would be won. It didn’t come and as the game moved into the last ten minutes I think it’s fair to say that Wolves had not really troubled us despite all their possession.
Soon after, Nick Pope made his first and only save of the afternoon and that was from his own captain who got a touch onto a ball into the box and we moved quietly and confidently into stoppage time of which referee Craig Pawson added five minutes.
Twice they got throw in that Ryan Bennett launched into the box. Mee headed the first, from the right, out of the box only for Jiménez to pick it up and hit the post. And then, in the final thirty seconds of stoppage time, he launched one into the box from the left. We got to it, they pushed it back in and all I could see was Pawson pointing to the penalty spot.
The decision is against Erik Pieters. It’s soft, and I don’t think we’d have got it. Neither do I think Wolves would have got it had they been playing a top side. It went to VAR but that was always going to back the on field referee and so Jiménez stepped up in the seventh minute of stoppage time to score and earn Wolves a much undeserved point.
I won’t deny it, when that final whistle went it felt like a defeat. The comments I heard from other Burnley fans as we left was that we’d have taken this result at kick off. We would, undoubtedly, and had their equaliser not come so late and so controversially then it would have been easier to take.
The teams were;
Wolves: Rui Patrício, Matt Doherty (Adama Traoré 76), Ryan Bennett, Conor Coady, Willy Boly, Jonny Otto, Morgan Gibbs-White (Pedro Neto 67), Rúben Nevez, João Moutinho (Leander Dendoncker 59), Raúl Jiménez, Diogo Jota. Subs not used: John Ruddy, Jesus Vallejo, Patrick Cutrone, Rúben Vinagre.
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Aaron Lennon 66), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil (Jeff Hendrick 86), Ashley Barnes (Jay Rodriguez 78), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Matěj Vydra.
Yellow Cards: James Tarkowski, Aaron Lennon.
Referee: Craig Pawson (Sheffield).
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