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Palace 0-1 Burnley
by Gene Sylvester
at Selhurst Park
CRYSTAL PALACE’s first post-lockdown home outing was matched by an eerily quiet atmosphere, with not so much as a Glad All Over belted out as the hosts fell 0-1 to Burnley on Monday night.
Palace, fresh from their drubbing at the hands of newly crowned champions Liverpool, had the opportunity to consolidate their top-10 status and open up a gap between themselves and the Clarets, having started the day level on points.
But from the off it was Burnley who were brighter, with Dwight McNeil and Josh Brownhill the standout performers in the first half.
The difference, though, was down to more than just a couple of standout players.
At a time when Sean Dyche’s future at the club remains uncertain, Burnley produced an away performance that is now typical of what we can expect under his leadership. After the whistle, Dyche even admitted thinking that the Europa League is not out of his threadbare squad’s reach.
They were calm in possession, with Ashley Westwood joining McNeil and Brownhill in seeing plenty of the ball early on, and Palace found it difficult to fashion any sort of meaningful possession.
The hosts did find the first opening after 10 minutes — a good move down the left involving Patrick van Aanholt and Wilfried Zaha which culminated with the Ivory Coast forward’s cute ball to James McArthur, who could not bring it under his control and let Nick Pope gather it comfortably.
It wasn’t long before Palace almost found themselves a goal down, when van Aanholt’s attempted clearance from a Westwood corner deflected off Scott Dann and back towards the Palace goal — where Joel Ward was fortunately placed to clear the danger.
And Burnley had a great opportunity to go into half-time a goal to the good, when Gary Cahill’s sloppy pass went straight to Ashley Westwood — who whipped in a cross towards Matej Vydra, but too close to parrying goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
VAR was called into play early in the second half, when Jordan Ayew was lucky not to be sent off for what looked like a forearm smash into the face of Brownhill.
Despite the home side growing in stature as the game went on, it was Burnley who scored the winner on 63 minutes. A Westwood free kick was met by Ben Mee’s bullet diving header just inside the 18-yard box, which Guaita could only tip onto the inside of the post and in after a despairing dive.
Palace rallied for the rest of the game in search of an equaliser, with Ayew spurning a number of chances.
But it turned out to be a well-deserved win for Dyche’s men after a solid performance — the kind which will only ensure that the vultures continue to circle for his services for next season.
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