Opinion: Burnley show guts in dramatic Fulham draw, but defensive frailties can't be allowed to continue
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Usually, that would be cause for celebration. But on this occasion, relief might be the operative word.
There will certainly be a mixture of feelings for Vincent Kompany, who will be equally as proud of his side’s character and resilience as he will be frustrated and angry at the quite shambolic defending we witnessed in the first-half.
At stages of this game, perhaps for a good hour or so, you got the nagging feeling this could quite easily go down as one of Burnley’s worst performances of the season. Given what we’ve already witnessed, that’s saying something.
The display was error-strewn, misplaced pass after misplaced pass was going awry and, had Fulham gone 3-0 up as they had long threatened to do, the home crowd could well have turned.
The dissension had already been bubbling away at half-time, with boos greeting Burnley’s woeful first 45 minutes.
But the Clarets somehow managed to turn things around and salvage themselves a point which, in the grand scheme of things, does little for their survival hopes. This was billed as a must-win game after all.
But what it does do, is instil a bit of belief and confidence. It changes the mood, provides a little bit of a lift. Burnley will need every ounce of that for their next two games, which come against title-challenging Liverpool and Arsenal.
The last time Burnley were at Turf Moor, they were cruelly denied in the dying seconds by Luton Town’s controversial leveller. On this occasion it was the hosts who snatched a result right at the end.
Hopefully, just hopefully, their dramatic ending sparks a similar run to that Luton have enjoyed in recent weeks.
Shooting yourself in the foot
What was most puzzling about Burnley’s dire first-half display is that they had actually started the game really brightly.
Led by the inspired Lyle Foster, who was in the sort of mood to run onto his own flick-ons, the Clarets looked well up for this right from the off. And so they should.
But as soon as they hit their first hurdle, they crumbled instantly. Yet again it was self-inflicted and more than avoidable.
Fulham stuck an early corner right into the six-yard box and Joao Palhinha had the relatively simple task of glancing home a side past the stricken James Trafford.
Having barely ventured near Burnley’s box during the opening stages, Fulham led with their first real chance of the game. That’s how easy it’s been to score against the Clarets this season (only bottom side Sheffield United have shipped more goals).
If the first goal was amazingly simplistic in its execution, the second was veering into the territory of disarray.
Vitinho, who struggled playing at left-back during the first-half, played Rodrigo Muniz onside from a hopeful punt over the top – a basic tactic that caused all sorts of problems all half – allowing the Fulham forward to run through on goal and lob Trafford, who had been left in no man’s land.
The keeper had managed to get a hand to Muniz’s effort but wasn’t able to make the required contact to keep it out of his net.
Dreamland for the Cottagers, utter misery for the Clarets.
What followed was a period of dominance from the away side, who must have been laughing themselves silly at how they had been gifted a two-goal lead.
Having not won at Turf Moor since 1951, a wait of 28 games (now 29) and 73 years, they must have been left wondering what all the fuss was about. How had they struggled for all those decades?
Silva’s side really ought to have put the game to bed. They had the chances to. But through a combination of wasteful finishing and smart Trafford saves, the deficit remained at two and Burnley somehow found a way to cling on, to stay in there.
While the hosts were certainly much improved in the second-half – it would have been difficult not to be – it wasn’t necessarily instant.
They continued to make unforced errors and the bulk of Fulham’s missed chances came in a 15-minute period at the start of the second 45.
The catalyst for change came off the Burnley bench. Firstly Maxime Esteve, a half-time replacement for Hjalmar Ekdal, ensured the Clarets were far more proactive, rather than reactive. He was on the front foot with his defending, always aggressive, looking to win the ball back as quickly as possible.
But being improved defensively could only achieve so much, Burnley needed a spark at the other end of the field.
Step forward one David Fofana. Even before we get to the two goals, the Chelsea striker brought an urgency that had been badly lacking for the opening hour of the game. Every time the ball went near him, you felt something could happen.
The 21-year-old changed the whole momentum of the game when he headed home in an empty net after Bernd Leno had missed Lorenz Assignon’s cross.
The crowd, previously agitated and close to rebelling, were now firmly back on side. Every tackle was greeted by that trademark Turf Moor roar.
The clock ticked into stoppage time and Fofana struck again, this time bundling home at the near post from another left-wing cross, Wilson Odobert the provider on this occasion.
He’s off in an instant, leaping over the advertising boards and into the crowd, duly receiving a yellow card. But boy, what a character.
What an ending, too. But will this comeback add some much-needed life to Burnley’s season? Or does it merely paper over the cracks? I guess we’ll find out at Anfield.