Captain Ben Mee’s first-half header from a corner was enough to separate the two lowest-scoring sides in the top flight. Burnley’s recent Premier League improvement continued as they edged to a narrow victory over bottom side Sheffield United at Turf Moor.
Sean Dyche’s side have now won three of their past five games and rise to 16th, while the Blades remain bottom with only two points.
In a tight affair, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood both went close to opening the scoring for the hosts but saw their close-range efforts superbly saved by visiting goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
David McGoldrick’s second-half shot, which was saved by Nick Pope, and Rhian Brewster’s near-post header, cleared on the line by home midfielder Ashley Westwood, were Sheffield United’s best opportunities.
The result represents a good start to the week for Burnley, who may finish it under new ownership, but the beleaguered Blades have now equalled Queens Park Rangers’ record of 16 games for the longest winless start to a Premier League season.
Their cause was not helped by a statement prior to kick-off confirming a number of individuals at the club have tested positive for coronavirus and gone into self-isolation in line with Premier League and Government guidelines.
Burnley’s main man Mee
While there was little to separate the sides, centre-back Mee underlined his importance to Burnley with another impressive display alongside James Tarkowski.
Without Mee, Burnley are a different side, shipping 12 goals in their first six games his season.
Since his return from a thigh injury the Clarets’ back four has returned to its obdurate and organised best, resulting in a gradual climb away from the bottom three. Apart from their now annual drubbing at Manchester City, Burnley’s goal’s against column has looked significantly healthier, with Mee overseeing the concession of just three goals in the other eight matches.
Against a Sheffield United side struggling in front of goal, he looked confident and composed, having more touches than any other Burnley player. He also snuffed out danger well, with one particularly timely block after McGoldrick had escaped down the left, before providing the match-winning contribution.
Blades fail to combat Burnley aerial threat
While Burnley have noticeably improved since being able to reintroduce Mee, Jack O’Connell’s injury has clearly had a negative impact on Sheffield United.
The central defender, who is unlikely to return before spring and could yet be out for the entire season, was a key component last term when they kept 13 clean sheets.
With his absence keenly felt, the Blades are now the only side in the Premier League yet to keep a clean sheet this term, having conceded 11 more goals than at the same stage of the 2019-20 campaign.
Their inability to combat Burnley’s aerial threat led to both Barnes and Wood going close but worse was to follow. Ethan Ampadu and Jack Robinson were both caught under the flight of Robbie Brady’s corner, which allowed Mee to score from an improbable position, surrounded by Sheffield United defenders.
In the build-up to the game Blades boss Chris Wilder had called his players “streetfighters” but those qualities did not come to the fore until they had gone a goal behind.
And despite dominating the second period, they were guilty of overplaying at times, with McGoldrick’s effort forcing Pope into his only real save of note.
‘It has always been an incredible fight ‘ – what they said
Burnley boss Sean Dyche: “Working hard without the ball has seen us through a tough game. We were playing against a Sheffield United side who I think are a good side – talk about a team that is fighting, they are fighting and put us under pressure in the second half.
“We thought it would be a tight game because you look at their scorelines and they are tight. There were not many chances overall but it was the quality of chances, that is important for us.
“We didn’t take them but we scored from the set-piece and the way we saw the game out, I thought we were outstanding.
“We believe in the set-piece work we do here. We simplify it for the players and put the onus on them to attack the ball.”
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder: “I think we were a little bit naive at times in certain aspects of the game. They got their noses in front and did what they needed to do to see the game out. A big three points for them and another defeat for us.
“Late on they just sat in and worked their socks off which they do as a team and we struggled to find that space and that pass that would get us back in the game.
“I am saying the same thing again. It was a good start by them but we got a foothold in the game and started to dictate and had a couple of opportunities. Yet again [we were] not showing that quality that decides the game.
“The year we had last year was a perfect storm for us, we took big moments and found that bit of quality. This time we don’t find that bit of quality and it marries up with the results. It is a big arm wrestle and a big struggle for us.”
Burnley’s home comforts – the stats
- Burnley secured consecutive home Premier League victories for the first time since October 2019.
- Burnley have won three of their last four home Premier League games (D1), as many as in their previous 13 combined (W3 D4 L6).
- Sheffield United have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 19 Premier League games since a 3-0 victory against Chelsea in July.
- Sheffield United’s Oliver Burke has not ended on the winning side in any of his first 25 appearances in the Premier League – the longest winless start to a player’s career in the competition (overtaking Gareth Bale’s 24 appearances).
- Burnley’s Ben Mee scored his first Premier League goal at Turf Moor in 76 games since scoring against Crystal Palace in January 2015. Four of Mee’s five Premier League goals have been headers.
Burnley are scheduled to host Fulham in their next Premier League game on Sunday, 3 January (12:00 GMT).
Sheffield United visit Crystal Palace for their next top-flight game on Saturday, 2 January (15:00 GMT).
Source – BBC News