History repeats itself against Arsenal
Arsenal beat us earlier in the season at home with a late, controversial goal that should not have stood. It’s hard to believe but they only went and repeated that yesterday with another winner that should not, had the officials got it right, been allowed.
It was the possibly offside and definitely handball goal from Laurent Koscielny in the home game; yesterday it was Koscielny again, this time winning a penalty when he was so clearly offside. It allowed Alexis Sanchez to convert a 98th minute winner from the penalty spot and left Arsenal with a double against us and us suffering a defeat just minutes after we thought we’d rescued a point with a penalty of our own.
That means a sixth successive defeat on the road and nine defeats in ten this season in away Premier League goals, but this was as good a performance as we’ve seen from Turf Moor I felt and deserved far more than the cruel end.
I know some will suggest that Sean Dyche sounds like a broken record but I’m not sure what else he can do when everyone can see how unjust Arsenal’s winner was.
The television scheduling meant an early Sunday morning start although not quite as early as it would have been had the Southampton v Leicester game not been pushed in ahead of us because of Southampton’s League Cup game this week.
It was not much after 6:30 a.m. when I ventured out with our journey taking us via the last pick up in Baildon before the journey down the M1 and M25 to Cockfosters and the underground journey to Arsenal. We arrived in good time, probably earlier than expected, at what is currently the second biggest league ground in England.
I used to really enjoy going to Highbury back in the day and when I knew it was set to go I hoped that we’d get one last chance to play there and willed us to be drawn away against Arsenal in one of the cup competitions. It wasn’t to be but now, in under eight years, we’ve played them at the Emirates, twice in the FA Cup and now three times in the Premier League. As we went into yesterday’s game, we were still to get anything there other than a defeat.
When the team news came through, we were unchanged while Arsène Wenger had included all his big guns, the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, it gives you some idea of how big the task was facing us.
Two seasons ago we played a very defensive game, trying to contain Arsenal. We were successful for 70 minutes but the opening goal then led to them adding two more goals and coming close to even more. I recall Dyche at the time saying that we wouldn’t play like that again and we certainly didn’t on this, our first visit since that game.
It all started quite brightly for us and we tried to take the game to Arsenal at every opportunity. Both strikers, Ashley Barnes and Andre Gray, brought saves out of Petr Cech and for a while we were offering every bit as much as our illustrious hosts.
But they were a real threat. They break quickly and their movement is terrific. Even so, we kept them down to the bare minimum through that first half. Tom Heaton was forced into a couple of good saves and we sighed with relieve when one Sanchez shot went wide of the post when we thought an opening goal was inevitable.
No score at half time was deserved I felt. They’d started to dominate the possession but we’d closed them down well, we’d defended when we had to and overall they really hadn’t had too many opportunities. If we could repeat that, I thought, we might be able to get a point.
The second half didn’t quite start like that. The opening quarter of an hour was probably Arsenal’s best period of the match. They pushed us back, we had to go deeper, and that allowed Granit Xhaka so much room to play in as he patrolled an area between ten and fifteen yards outside our box.
For the first time I feared we might be losing our grip and could go behind. We did, but when it came it was the least expected way. Despite all their good play, all their movement, all their probing, they took the lead just before the hour when Shkodran Mustafi headed home a corner.
Suddenly the afternoon was looking a lot more difficult and the fear of a big defeat starts to creep in, but we got a bit of help five minutes later when, for the second time this season, referee Jon Moss showed Granit Xhaka a red card. This one, like the previous one, was without doubt a correct decision after he’d gone in two footed on Steven Defour.
The one thing we couldn’t do was throw too many forward in search of a goal. Do that and they’ll pick you off, but we did get some opportunities and Defour tested Cech with a free kick.
With twenty minutes to go we still had our three substitutes to use and then, in the space of a four minute period we made all three changes. Firstly Jeff Hendrick was replaced by Joey Barton but almost immediately Dean Marney went down after committing a foul. He was stretchered off with James Tarkowski coming on for him and almost immediately Sam Vokes replaced Defour.
The concern is for Marney. Dyche said he didn’t know how serious it was but it is a knee injury and we can only hope that it is nothing like as serious as the one he suffered almost two years ago.
As the clock moved on, so Burnley pushed on and we started to put Arsenal under pressure. When they did relieve that pressure and got back at us, our two central defenders, Michael Keane and Ben Mee, who had been brilliant all afternoon, ensured there would be no second goal.
When we reached ninety minutes, up went the board showing another seven, no surprise given the treatment Defour needed after the red card challenge and then Marney, and finally we got our goal. Barnes was fouled in the box by Francis Coquelin and Gray converted the spot kick.
There was no doubt, despite the wise words of Wenger who had the audacity at one point to say Coquelin had not made contact.
Had we got a point? Almost was the answer. But with around a minute remaining, a ball into the box saw Mee go up to clear, make contact with Koscielny and Moss, after some delay pointed to the spot.
Koscielny was offside; the assistant referee failed to do his job, but who, in any case, gave the penalty? Moss can’t see the incident properly and quite noticeably starts to turn away to allow play to go on. All of a sudden, surely on advice from elsewhere he stops his movement away and points to the spot. It can only be the assistant.
Sanchez stepped up, scored the goal and Arsenal and beaten us 2-1.
It was devastating. I said I wish it had stayed at 1-0 rather than this happen. To have that point in our grasp and have it taken away from us was so, so cruel. The away section of the ground could do no more than applaud the players who came over, as crestfallen as any of us.
It was so hard to take and to be honest the ungracious Wenger couldn’t have made me feel any worse than I did, although I did have a few choice words when I heard his nonsense.
We made our way back to the car for the journey home and as we drove up the M1 we got the news from Chelsea of the horrific injury sustained by Hull’s Ryan Mason. It really did put everything into perspective.
The teams were;
Arsenal: Petr Cech, Gabriel, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Alex Iwobi (Francis Coquelin 69), Mesut Ozil (Hector Bellerin 89), Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud (Danny Welbeck 87). Subs not used: David Ospina, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas Perez.
Yellow Card: Shkodran Mustafi.
Red Card: Granit Xhaka.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick (Joey Barton 73), Dean Marney (James Tarkowski 76), Steven Defour (Sam Vokes 77), Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Kightly.
Yellow Cards: Matt Lowton, Dean Marney, Ashley Barnes.
Referee: Jon Moss (Horsforth).
Attendance: 59,955 (including 1,446 Clarets).
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