Burnley have Sunderland in their sights after this deserved win, and quite possibly Hull City and Everton too. Sean Dyche’s side were unable to climb out of the bottom three with victory over Manchester City, but they are now just a point behind the side in 17th place and in no danger of changing their manager.
City will now be officially concentrating on making progress in Europe, where they must overcome a 2-1 deficit from the first leg against Barcelona to survive at Camp Nou on Wednesday. In truth this was such a lethargic, uninspired display from the visitors that it was tempting to suppose they had already made that decision before kick-off.
Take nothing away from Burnley though, they were as tenacious as they have been all season and, when they finally realised they had an opportunity against City, they took their chance, seized the lead and defended it well.
Vincent Kompany was restored to the City lineup after missing the last game against Leicester City, but there was no place for Wilfried Bony, with Edin Dzeko starting alongside Sergio Agüero. For Burnley, there was a first start of the season for Sam Vokes after a long injury lay-off and a handful of appearances as a substitute.
Both teams matched each other in the midfield areas for the first 20 minutes without managing to create anything likely to lead to a goal. Jesús Navas made a couple of promising runs down the right, but could not come up with the cross his team-mates were looking for, while – apart from an optimistic appeal by Danny Ings for a penalty for handball – most of Burnley’s moves broke down even further from the area.
One could understand City’s caution with Barcelona to come, though, as Sean Dyche was at pains to point out in the match programme, Burnley now need to turn good performances into points, because praise for their attitude and commitment will not keep them in the division.
The home side had no need to be in awe of their visitors, having earned a point in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad in December, and really should have been having a go to test whether Manuel Pellegrini really did have one eye on his side’s European fixture.
It took half an hour for either goalkeeper to be called on to make a save, then Tom Heaton had to produce two in quick succession to deny Dzeko and Agüero. Scott Arfield brought Joe Hart into action at the other end before City squandered the best opportunity of the first half.
A goal appeared certain when David Silva, already in a good position to shoot, craftily slipped the ball forward for Dzeko to make sure, only for the striker to let the ball run and miss his chance. Agüero tried to retrieve the situation – proof that City had more than enough finishers on hand to take advantage of momentary Burnley disarray – but, forced away from goal, he shot from a narrow angle and missed the target.
A Manchester City fan proposed to his Burnley supporting girlfriend on the pitch at half-time, in what looked suspiciously like a pre-arranged stunt but was nevertheless more entertaining than anything the first 45 minutes had to offer. The lady said yes, and the crowd responded with a burst of: “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
The prospective bridegroom ventured that he fancied City to win one-nil, which sounded like pushing his luck, though the visitors should have taken the lead early in the second half, when Agüero turned Kieran Trippier on the halfway line, but delayed his pass to an unmarked Silva a fraction too long and then saw the Spain player, highly unusually for him, make his shooting angle more difficult with a poor first touch.
Burnley began to show a little more attacking adventure in the second half and George Boyd was narrowly wide with a difficult volley from the edge of the area before Ben Mee was slightly harshly booked for a challenge on Navas. It was nothing like as bad as the challenge by Martin Demichelis on Ings that quite rightly resulted in the Argentinian defender being cautioned a couple of minutes later and led to Burnley taking the lead.
From the free-kick, angled into the area by Trippier, Kompany’s clearing header only found Boyd on the edge of the area and the winger drilled a low left-foot shot straight and true into Hart’s bottom left corner. The goalkeeper was possibly unsighted at first as the penalty area was crowded, though Boyd did well to keep the shot down and pick the one spot that Hart might not have been able to reach anyway.
City wasted no time in bringing Bony on after that, withdrawing the ineffective Dzeko. Fernandinho volleyed too high after Navas won a corner before Stevan Jovetic, then Frank Lampard too, joined the fray, but the closest City came was an Agüero header that flew just too high.
Mee was lucky to get away with bringing down Pablo Zabaleta in the penalty area in stoppage time; while not the most obvious foul, he did not seem to get much of the ball, but the referee waved play on and Burnley held on for a famous victory.