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Chris Wood scored on his full debut as Burnley beat Crystal Palace to move into the top half of the Premier League table and increase the pressure on Eagles boss Frank de Boer.
Clarets record signing Wood, who scored the equaliser at Tottenham after coming on as a substitute two weeks ago, seized on a horrendous back-pass from Lee Chung-yong before shooting past Wayne Hennessey in just the third minute at Turf Moor.
It was one of only two attempts on target by the home side, who conceded the greater share of possession and territory to their opponents.
But Palace – lacking in composure and confidence – were unable to capitalise on the chances that fell their way, with Scott Dann seeing two efforts from close range blocked on the line and heading a sitter wide in the closing stages.
They remain without a league goal or point this season under Dutchman De Boer, chronically short of confidence and second bottom of the division.
They are also the first side in 93 years to lose the first four matches of a top-flight season without scoring a goal, since Preston in 1924.
Burnley have seven points and are up to seventh in the table, although it was not all good news as goalkeeper Tom Heaton was forced off with an arm injury after falling awkwardly in the first half.
‘A results-based business’
Palace can argue they had the better of Sunday’s game, in terms of territory, time on the ball and chances created.
They had 65% of possession, nearly 30 touches in the Burnley box as opposed to the five the Clarets had in Palace’s area, and had 23 attempts on goal to their opponents’ four.
But dominating these stats are not enough on their own to win football matches, especially when you are struggling in front of goal and gift a stubborn, well-organised opponent an early lead.
When Eagles striker Christian Benteke is up for the contest and confident he is a handful for any defence, but when things are not going his way he becomes a passenger, as he was for much of this match.
He was given one big chance to salvage something for his side when he burst through a host of players into the box but saw his shot blocked by a superb spread-eagle save from Heaton’s young replacement, Nick Pope.
The Belgian wasn’t the only culprit. A combination of misfortune and good defending on the line prevented Dann scoring with two goalbound shots, but only the Palace defender knows what was going through his head when, with a minute to go, he tried to use it to steer home a cross from Yohan Cabaye from just yards out instead of burying it.
De Boer can lament an unjust defeat but it leaves him vulnerable in what, as his chairman dispassionately stated this week, is a “results-based business”.
Burnley building with Wood
Wood is already beginning to make the £15m Burnley spent to bring him to Turf Moor look like good business.
He showed predatory instincts to grab his side a point in the closing stages against Tottenham at Wembley before the international break and was equally lethal when gifted a route to goal by Lee on Sunday.
Prior to today the former West Brom and Leicester striker had never played more than 35 minutes in a Premier League match, managing only 11 substitute appearances, but after scoring 30 times for Leeds last season he now looks at home in the top flight.
It is fortunate for Burnley that he does, because they only managed one other shot on target over the whole 90 minutes on Sunday – a curling effort from Ashley Barnes that Wayne Hennessey palmed away.
But the Clarets’ victory was a team effort and owed as much to their application and organisation at the back as the wastefulness of their opponents.
Man of the match – James Tarkowski (Burnley)
‘Palace were better than us’ – What they said…
Burnley manager Sean Dyche: “We were resolute, that was the key. Palace were the better side today – we didn’t get into our stride at all.
“They played well throughout the game. Sometimes it’s just not your day. It’s our worst performance of the season so far but the shape of the team, the belief in each other, was on show.
“Chris Wood has made a good start and he scored a hat-trick for his country in midweek as well. He has a desire to prove himself in the Premier League. It was a great finish.”
Crystal Palace boss Frank De Boer: “I cannot believe we lost. There is still frustration about the result but not about our performance.
“The goal we conceded was very disappointing. We have given a lot of sloppy goals away already and that was even worse.
“We did not give much away, controlled the game and you have to reward yourself by scoring goals. That is what football is about.
“I am not disappointed about the performance and it gives me a lot of hope for the future – I said straight after after to the boys that if you do like this you will get your goals and your rewards.”
Get rid of it! – the stats you need to know
- Palace have lost their past six Premier League games in which they’ve registered at least 60% possession.
- Chris Wood is just the second player from Oceania to score in their first start in the Premier League – the other was Brett Emerton in August 2003 for Blackburn against Wolves.
- Wood’s strike was scored just 169 seconds into the match, Burnley’s fastest Premier League goal since November 2016, also against Palace – Sam Vokes firing the Clarets ahead 78 seconds into that match.
- Wood is the first Burnley player to score in both of his first two Premier League appearances for the club.
- Wood became just the sixth player from New Zealand to start a Premier League match, after Ryan Nelsen, Winston Reid, Simon Elliott, Danny Hay and Lee Norfolk.
- The Clarets are guaranteed to end today in the top eight of the top-flight outside August for the first time since April 18th 1975.
Burnley travel to Liverpool next Saturday for a Premier League game at 15:00 BST before hosting Wood’s former side Leeds in the EFL Cup the following Tuesday night.
Palace host Southampton in Saturday’s early kick-off and then welcome Huddersfield to Selhurst Park in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.
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