Out of the bottom three after beating Wolves
A goal from Matěj Vydra, his first on the Turf in just over a year, gave the Clarets a 1-0 win against Wolves yesterday on a day that couldn’t have gone better for our football club.
That goal gave us three more precious points to take us up to 17th place and then left us all nervously watching the Merseyside derby to see if we could stay there for more than a couple of hours.
Strangely, the win against Southampton last Thursday, had added to the tension. It had taken us within a point of Everton and had given us a chance to move out of those dreaded bottom three places for the first time since October. We knew it was going to be that sort of day, I think.
We’d played well against Southampton, but whether they played well or not against us, and Ralph Hasenhüttl thought not, Wolves were always likely to be a different proposition. They have become a very good side under Bruno Lage and the one thing you don’t want to do against them is go a goal behind given their defensive record this season.
The first half was as I expected with Wolves looking the better of the two teams although they didn’t too often offer a goal threat and Nick Pope only had one save to make of any note when he pushed away a Jonny Otto shot to his left.
We defended ever so well though, as a team and certainly as a back four. Connor Roberts got in a couple of good blocks, scared the life out of me with what proved to be a good pass in the box. Nathan Collins has added goals to his recent performances. He didn’t here but this was another assured performance from a young central defender. And all that alongside the ever reliable James Tarkowski with Charlie Taylor completing the four admirably.
At the other end, we had our opportunities with Dwight McNeil, again inspired on the right, getting in two good shots from distance. The one early in the half sailed over the bar but José Sár saved well to deny him a goal with one later in the half.
It took us just three minutes to get the ball in the net after the start of the second half. We won a free kick on the right, close to our technical area. Jack Cork took it quickly to release Vydra who scored at the second time after his first effort was blocked by the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, up went the assistant referee’s flag for offside. Had he got it right? Would VAR intervene? The truth is, Vydra was so far offside, a few yards, it was as easy a decision as the assistant could have had. There wasn’t a goal for Vydra but he didn’t have too long to wait.
Before that, Pope had to save well to his left, possibly his only difficult save of the afternoon. It kept us level and then, the goal came. It was just past the hour, the 62nd minute to be exact. Under challenge from Tarkowski, just outside our penalty area, Raúl Jiménez could do no more than head the ball back to Pope. The next time a Wolves player made contact with the ball we were 1-0 up.
Pope rolled the ball out to Taylor and he in turn slipped the ball inside for Josh Brownhill. Make no mistake, Brownhill’s contribution was key. He excellently dummied to pass Leander Dendoncker before feeding McNeil. Roberts supported down the right and McNeil played a one-two with him before sliding a superb ball to Wout Weghorst on the right of the box. Weghorst squared but the ball was just that little behind Vydra but he did ever so well to slide the ball into the bottom corner.
It was looking like a tense half hour, and it was to an extent, but we were now looking more likely. Weghorst, still awaiting his first home goal for the Clarets, saw an effort blocked. He then almost set up Aaron Lennon, by now on for Vydra, similar to the goal. Lennon did well and won a corner but had he been able to get a shot in, Weghorst would have been ruled offside when he received the pass.
With around five minutes to go, and a few more minutes to add to that, Kevin Long got ready to come on. Which one of the central defenders is coming off, I thought. Neither, it was McNeil, who rightly received a standing ovation from the home crowd, as we went to five at the back.
Almost immediately, we had the ball in the net again from Barnes, who had done so well since coming on. Sá spilled the ball and Barnes had every right to go for it but the keeper had regained control of the ball in his hands and it was rightly ruled out. The Burnley fans chanted for VAR but had the ball been loose, Mike Dean could not have intervened with match referee Anthony Taylor, who had a bizarre afternoon, having already blown.
With four minutes added on, Wolves needed a goal, but the only effort they had was a shot straight at Pope and by then the home fans were imploring the referee to blow the final whistle. When he did, the place erupted in the stands, on the touchline and on the pitch. Players hugged, Matt Lowton jumped on Vydra for a piggy back, and the fans roared their delight.
Two wins in under three days. This was also a third successive home win, and it’s the first time we’ve achieved that since we won five on the bounce in the 2016/17 season against Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Southampton and Leicester.
We left the ground with us 17th and then had the nervous watch of the game at Anfield. We scored our winning goal in the 62nd minute and Andrew Robertson, once close to being a Claret, gave Liverpool the lead in the 62nd minute with Divock Origi adding a second late in the game.
The players will be keeping their feet on the ground; they need to. We have to as well. We can’t get ahead of ourselves because we quite simply need a good few more points yet. But we have given ourselves a better chance and now we are off to Watford.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Connor Roberts, Nathan Collins, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Dwight McNeil (Kevin Long 85), Josh Brownhill, Jack Cork, Jay Rodriguez (Ashley Barnes 64), Wout Weghorst, Matěj Vydra (Aaron Lennon 78). Subs not used: Wayne Hennessey, Matt Lowton, Phil Bardsley, Bobby Thomas, Dale Stephens, Dara Costelloe.
Yellow Cards: Matěj Vydra, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Barnes.
Wolves: José Sár, Willy Boly, Conor Coady, Romain Saïss (Machado Trincão 79), Nélson Semedo, Leander Dendoncker, João Moutinho, Jonny Otto, Raúl Jiménez, Hwang Hee-chan, Fábio Silva (Pedro Neto 67). Subs not used: John Ruddy, Rayan Aït-Nouri, Fernando Marçal, Tomás Oliveira, Toti Gomes, Luke Cundle.
Yellow Card: Pedro Neto.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe).