Burnley 0-1 Arsenal: Sanchez leaves it late to break Clarets’ hearts
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal left it late to beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor on Sunday lunchtime.
An Alexis Sanchez injury-time penalty a matter of seconds before the final whistle clinched a hard-fought victory for the Gunners in Lancashire.
The win was harsh on Sean Dyche’s side, having performed creditably in 90 minutes – before referee Lee Mason pointed to the spot after defender James Tarkowski pushed Aaron Ramsey, in an action Wenger insisted afterwards should have seen a penalty awarded.
Even if Dyche commented dryly it was highly unlikely the spot-kick wouldn’t have been given, adding with a raised eyebrow ‘it was a definite smash compared to what most players go down with these days.’
The result again broke Clarets’ hearts during a meeting with the Gunners after Sanchez netted a 98th-minute winner from the spot to seal their game at the Emirates last term making it the third consecutive time Wenger’s side had notched a winner in stoppage-time against Burnley.
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With snow on the moors that fringe Turf Moor was it any surprise Mesut Ozil was replaced by Alex Iwobi after an unspecified ‘illness’?
The switch of the German for the 21-year-old of Nigerian descent was a lost chance for Arsenal’s hero in the North London derby victory over bitter rivals Spurs to show he had the mettle to influence such a raw fixture.
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As it was, the clash between these once-proud Victorian giants rising again under the 21st century tutelage of the impressive young English manager Sean Dyche was symbolic of the rich history of English football.
For the tightly-packed terrace streets around the evocative ‘Turf’ would have been as powerful a culture shock to the arrivistes of North London as the intensity of the Clarets opening against the southern aristocrats.
A stroll around this wonderful, grand old ground with a big heart was instructive.
Sandstone buildings stood proudly, relics of an enduring Victorian heritage when Lancashire led the industrial world. There was still evidence of the long-defunct textile trade with towering chimneys visible wherever you cared to look for them.
You could even spot one from the press box high up in the gods of the main stand – where once the famous old ‘Longside’ terrace stood – standing tall amid the rows and rows of slate grey terraced houses as steep streets rose into snow-dusted moors.
LS Lowry would have approved, when just before kick-off a gap in the gunmetal grey skies allowed a shard of light to illuminate the view – in a scene reminiscent of the working-class hero’s best works.
As it was, the nearby Park Lane pub sported a Burnley take on Lowry. Not of one of his well-known ‘matchstick cats and dogs’ but a scene from this correspondent’s favourite painting, ‘Going To The Match’, with the thin, faceless characters walking to Turf Moor, rather than the painting’s Burnden Park at nearby Bolton.
The difference in worlds was evidenced by the announcer calling Alexandre Lacazette Laca-zet-tee as if he’d never heard of Arsenal’s record £52million signing from Lyon before.
But the town of Burnley is adapting to the struggles of the post-industrial age as witnessed by the new apartment blocks and retail centres springing up where mills were once king as service industries emerge. Jobs are being created even if foodbanks are too.
There is urban deprivation here but there is too in parts of Islington.
And even if the great Harry Potts – boss of their fabled 1960 league title winning side, not to mention a key member of their 1946/47 Division Two promotion team - was pictured on the wall of the Bob Lord Stand, this new re-incarnation of Burnley is very much a modern one tale fit for the second millennium.
The remodelled area around the ground is testament to that fact as you are more likely to see a high-tech academy building than a chip shop, and a fanzone than the more unsavoury elements of the club’s passionate support.
No wonder the coveted Dyche is wanted by Everton. He has revolutionised this club reinventing this institution - just as East Lancs is trying to as well.
Dyche embraces sports science while refusing to completely deny the presence of an iron fist and melds it with a refreshing honesty on-and-off the pitch.
His ethos is supplemented by a fierce work ethic and subjugation to the team rather than the individual – while allowing craftsmen such as the former Standard Liege creative midfielder Steven Defour to flourish.
This Burnley side is a superb mix of steel and subtlety, and can be as pragmatic and pleasing, depending on the opposition.
Against Arsenal they showed both characteristics as the intensity Burnley showed from the off epitomised the lack of respect for reputations they apply to anyone they face.
It didn’t matter to Dyche’s exceptionally hard-working young side they were facing one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Which, backed by their travelling fans – who snapped up every tickets in a packed away end, with many travelling straight from the hostelries of Cologne to Colne - kept up their impressive record of selling out every league game away from the Emirates and Highbury this century.
Quite simply it was enthralling to watch their fierce commitment as they flew into tackles from the off, competing with a controlled aggression, epitomised by a thunderous – and fair – challenge by Matt Lowton on Monreal. No quarter was given nor expected as the thud of the resounding tackle echoed around East Lancs for a split second.
On 17 minutes John Berg Gudmundsson found space in the box before unleashing a fierce shot at Petr Cech’s near post before thudding away to safety.
A minute later Lacazette crossed into the Clarets box only for Aaron Ramsey to fire wide. Nacho Monreal then fizzed a low, left-footed shot just past Nick Pope’s left-hand post as Arsenal reminded their hosts they weren’t going to have it all their own way.
On 31 minutes James Tarkowski carried out a perfectly-timed tackle on Alexis Sanchez in the box to nullify the threat of a close range shot.
The game then fell into a scrappy spell punctuated by a series of niggly challenges which brought rancour on referee Lee Mason from the home crowd for not punishing perceived in
With seven minutes to go until half-time Robbie Brady fired in a left-footed free-kick that was pushed away by Cech.
Even then, the pedantic Mason failed to avoid censure from the home crowd by refusing to allow the kick to be taken until he was satisfied representatives from both teams assembled in the wall were behaving themselves, not least a fidgety Sanchez.
As Mason blew for half-time on a hard-fought first 45 minutes the passionate fans around the press box made their views very clear on proceedings, particularly on the subject of their visitors and Mason.
The second half was full of endeavour if not quality for long stretches, prompting Wenger to replace the hard-working if ineffective Iwobi with Jack Wilshere on 67 minutes in a bid to secure a crucial what would have been a crucial victory.
With 16 minutes remaining Stephen Ward squared for Defour, only to have his shot blocked before Brady followed up with a strong effort which flew over.
But there was drama with Arsenal’s late winner after Mason pointed to the spot following defender Tarkowski pushing Aaron Ramsey – in an action in which Wenger afterwards insisted was a penalty.
To the fury of the home support, Sanchez calmly slotted home before celebrating in front of the massed ranks of joyous travelling fans in the away end.
There was only time for the referee to restart the match before he blew for full-time on an eventful week for the North Londoners that took in Colney to Cologne to Colne as Arsenal picked up three vital points on the road.
Just as questions were asked last week whether the Gunners could match the victory against Spurs with a win at Burnley the issue now is whether the side can win their next two matches at home – against Huddersfield and Manchester United.
With the latter against old foe Jose Mourinho, a win against the northern giants would perhaps signal a consistent solidity to the team, absent since before the Liverpool debacle.
For now, on a freezing cold winter’s afternoon, three points against Dyche’s talented side is most welcome – even if it was a result the home side did not deserve.