PL REPORT: Aston Villa 0 Burnley 0
Clarets earn point to move out of bottom three as they keep it clean again
Another away day and another clean sheet combined to provide the point that lifted the Clarets back out of the Premier League’s bottom three.
It’s a mystery how a ding-dong affair ended goalless as Burnley’s record of scoring against Villa in every league game they’ve played since 1956 came to an end.
The Clarets had chances to extend that sequence and with over 20 goal-scoring attempts Villa certainly had the opportunities to reverse their recent home form and avoid a first draw of the season.
But the Clarets are nothing if not resilient and they were suitably rewarded for another tireless performance built around more superb defending with a sprinkling of stardust from Dwight McNeil as they stretched their unbeaten run to three games.
Goalkeeper Nick Pope was again faultless and in front of him a wall of yellow shirts made sure Villa wouldn’t pass as the Clarets made it two clean sheets in a row and four in the last six games.
And remarkably, Sean Dyche’s side have now conceded in only one of their last five away games as they continue to build the platform for progress up the table on the back of a run of just one defeat in six matches.
Unsurprisingly, the Clarets were unchanged from the side that started Sunday night’s win at Arsenal which brought them their first three points on the road this season.
Through a combination of suspension, injury and tactical choice Villa made five changes from their victory at Wolves as they looked to stop the rot at Villa Park.
Three successive home defeats had slowed the Villains’ momentum since they put seven past champions Liverpool at the start of October.
And their re-shuffled line-up looked eager to make amends in a bright start that contrasted with the Clarets’ sluggish opening.
But as Burnley eased their way into the contest they created the first opening with an excellent move that almost brought a special goal for Ashley Westwood.
McNeil paved the way with an excellent break from half-way before releasing Jay Rodriguez.
Rodriguez then picked out the supporting run of Westwood with the former Villa midfielder sending a curling first-time effort inches wide of the far post.
Suddenly there were chances at both ends, as Charlie Taylor made a crucial block to deny Villa’s Bertrand Traore and Chris Wood – who had scored on all three of his previous starts against the Midlanders – was thwarted by Emiliano Martinez’s flying save as he directed a header from Rodriguez’s cross towards the top corner.
Villa countered with an Ahmed El Mohamady shot deflected off top scorer Ollie Watkins which Matt Lowton headed off the line, although VAR may have been called into action after the ball looked to have gone out of play in the build-up.
The Clarets continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack as McNeil constantly teased the hosts’ defence but twice before the end of a lively – and occasionally spiky – first half Villa hit the woodwork.
Pope could claim the credit for the first occasion as his superb finger-tip touch from Anwar El Ghazi’s free-kick diverted the ball onto the bar.
But the Clarets’ keeper was out of the equation two minutes before the break when defender Kortney Hause thundered a header against a post following a corner.
Inevitably the pace dipped following the re-start, but a revitalised McNeil got the Clarets going again with another excellent run and cross which Brady met with a far-post header that was blocked at the expense of a corner.
And normal service was soon resumed with openings at either end as El Ghazi – always a useful outlet for his side – tried his luck again from distance with an effort that flashed just wide before again warming the gloves of Pope with a skidding shot.
Rodriguez then volleyed over the top from Wood’s lay-off with what was his last touch before being replaced by the fresh legs of Ashley Barnes with 25 minutes left to try and break the deadlock.
It was knife-edge stuff and Ben Mee and Barnes had fleeting sights of goal as both teams continued to go at it hammer and tongs and stretched the game to its limits.
James Tarkowski took his turn as the Clarets' last line of defence with another point-saving block from Traore.
And despite neither side simply settling for a draw, that was the outcome as the Clarets completed a successful week on their travels.
Aston Villa: Martinez; El Mohamady, Hause, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba; Traore (Davis 80), Grealish, El Ghazi; Watkins. Substitutes: Steer, Taylor, Hourihane, Engels, Guilbert, Ramsey.
Burnley: Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Brady (Pieters 90), Westwood, Brownhill, McNeil; Wood (Vydra 82), Rodriguez (Barnes 65). Substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Bardsley, Long, Benson.
Referee: Craig Pawson