Confident Clarets ease past dismal Palace
Crystal Palace 0 Burnley 3
Crystal Palace slumped to a dismal home defeat and were given a lesson in conviction by Burnley, who belied their lowly Premier League status with a display of confidence, verve and clinical finishing.
The mid-table Eagles found themselves already up against it in freezing south London conditions when they conceded two goals inside the opening ten minutes, thanks to gift-wrapped defending, easily punished by Johann Gudmundsson and Jay Rodriguez.
It was perhaps a sign that this was destined to be an off-colour afternoon for Palace when Matt Lowton fired home a clinical third goal moments after half-time, concluding any possibility of a revival by Roy Hodgson’s men. Nevertheless, this was all about Burnley who happily punished their opponents. On this evidence, the confident Clarets should have no fear of relegation as they continue to put clear blue water between themselves and the bottom three.
With talisman Wilfried Zaha still injured, there was no doubt that, on the face of it, his absence was bound to hurt Palace’s chances. Those fears proved to have major foundation. Burnley, meanwhile, arrived in the capital with the worst attack in the league with 14 goals - but had only conceded the same amount as Liverpool in fourth.
Boss Sean Dyche likely spied an opportunity to add to the eight-point gap over struggling Fulham in 18th place. His side demonstrably leapt to the prospect - and were absolutely potent when opportunities arrived, especially in the case of Lowton’s lovely volleyed goal. The only downside to Burnley’s day was an injury to Ben Mee, as the centre back was stretchered off late on.
Palace chief Hodgson opted to go with Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi up front together from the start for the first time in the League this season. Could the hosts see the benefit from this particular physical duo? The experiment proved to be a failure.
Burnley took the lead after only five minutes, aided by a generous Palace defence – and not for the first time as matters progressed either.
From Erik Pieters’ cross, Scott Dann could only clip the ball unconvincingly into the path of unmarked Gudmundsson, and the Iceland international was able to drill a composed shot home.
And if that wasn’t a stark enough wake-up call for the hosts, the Clarets, incredibly, doubled their lead just four minutes later in utterly basic, training ground, fashion.
Having won a corner on the right, Dwight McNeil flighted the ball in and Rodriguez was the first to react amid a cluster of players to nod home from close range. It was an exercise in sheer simplicity – and another major blow so early for the Eagles.
Slow to respond, Palace eventually drove forward and, in 17 minutes, Benteke fired a low shot from just inside the penalty area, only for his effort to be well held by Burnley keeper Nick Pope. The Eagles frontman threatened again shortly after, but after escaping the attentions of James Tarkowski, his angled shot was turned away by the feet of Pope.
At least there was a greater degree of energy about Hodgson’s charges as they attempted to get back into the game. However a lack of ingenuity was apparent, with the Lancashire outfit retaining plenty of players behind the ball in their own half. Certainly, the hope for Palace was to at least somehow halve the deficit before the interval. Yet, despite promptings by Ebere Eze and Jairo Riedewald in particular, Hodgson cut an impatient-looking figure, with much to ponder for the second half.
In any case, whatever advice was dispensed in the home dressing room, it counted for very little when Burnley, to all intents and purposes, killed off the affair in superb fashion due to the sumptuous technique of Lowton.
Somehow, Palace seemed oblivious to the right-back foraging forward into a dangerous position on the side of the penalty area and, keeping composed, Lowton cracked a fine volley when teed up invitingly by Rodriguez. Eagles keeper Vicente Guaita was effectively helpless to stop it.
Guaita had to react fast as Ashley Barnes tried his luck in an attempt to add to the visitors’ dominance and Ashley Westwood then fired over as Burnley took on an increasingly sprightly edge; Palace unsurprisingly growing ever disillusioned.
Rodriguez was next to threaten, with a fierce drive which whizzed a yard over as the Clarets looked anything like a side at the wrong end of the table. Hodgson had already replaced the anonymous Batshuayi with Andros Townsend, although the damage was already done.
Townsend did manage to blast over in a rare, late foray by the Eagles. The outcome, though, was never in doubt. As unproductive off-days go, this was one to forget - and the sooner Zaha returns to action the better for Palace, who sorely lack imagination and penetration.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Van Aanholt, Kouyate, Dann, Clyne, Eze, Riedewald, Milivojevic, Ayew, Batshuayi (Townsend 62), Benteke (Mateta 76)