REPORT: West Bromwich Albion 0 Burnley 0
Clarets get first point on the board on positive night in the Midlands
The Clarets are up and running after the Premier League’s first goalless draw of the season earned them a point at the Hawthorns.
It might have been a stalemate and both sides were left still waiting for their opening win.
But the Clarets at least have some reward to show for their efforts and something to build on after ending a run of three successive league defeats to move off the foot of the table.
And a first point could easily have been three as their best performance so far this season saw them as the most likely winners in a return to form that bodes well for the challenges to come.
The Clarets sported a new look of pale yellow in their third kit and also made changes to their starting line-up as they felt the effect of Covid.
Phil Bardsley’s positive test ruled him out and meant another new position for the versatile Erik Pieters, who took over at right-back.
In front of him, there was a welcome return to starting duty for Johann Berg Gudmundsson as Josh Brownhill moved back inside to his favoured central midfield position.
West Brom also had a fresh outlook in their line-up with new signing Karlan Grant making a debut in attack as the Baggies chased a first win since their return to the top flight.
Grant had a chance to make an instant impact 20 minutes with an opening he fired wide and when he did nod the ball home late in the first half he did so from an off-side position.
The greater threat arguably came from the Clarets with Dwight McNeil – fresh from signing his new contract – stretching the home defence at every opportunity and delivering a stream of dangerous balls into the box from Burnley’s left flank.
And the best two chances of the opening half came the Clarets’ way for Ashley Barnes.
The striker had scored a brilliant goal here on Burnley’s last visit in 2018 when a 2-1 win had edged the Baggies nearer the drop.
But this time he was unable to beat Sam Johnstone into the same net with an attempted lob following a headed clearance from the Baggies’ keeper who then made an excellent save from a more potent Barnes effort after Kevin Long looked to have been pushed to the ground in the penalty area.
The Clarets maintained the momentum after the break, moving the ball slickly and constantly knocking on the door.
But there was a double scare with nearly an hour gone as the Baggies nearly found a way through after Grady Dianga pulled the ball back for Jake Livermore to let fly with a shot superbly saved by Nick Pope.
James Tarkowski then blocked the follow-up from Branislav Ivanovic, whose second attempt was again kept out by Pope.
And within moments the Clarets should have led themselves from the best opening yet, Ashley Westwood hanging up a perfect cross which ex-Baggies striker Chris Wood headed against the bar when he should have scored.
Burnley were getting closer, though, and with McNeil continuing to torment the home side he delivered a cross which Barnes met with a powerful header that required another fine save from Johnstone to keep out of the net as the game approached its final 20 minutes.
A point might have felt scant reward at that stage but even that might have eluded the Clarets with a chance at other end for Matheus Pereira who was also unable to beat Pope with a volley at the far post.
But with Pope earning his first shut-out the Clarets made sure they wouldn’t leave the Midlands empty-handed on a night they took a notable step forward.
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone; Furlong, Ivanovic, Hegazi, Townsend; Gallagher, Livermore, Krovinovic (Sawyers 79); Pereira (Phillips 88), Grant (Robinson 73), Diangana. Substitutes: Button, Bartley, Ajayi, Phillips, O’Shea.
Booked: Livermore, Phillips.
Burnley: Pope; Pieters, Long, Tarkowski, Taylor; Gudmundsson (Brady 68), Brownhill, Westwood, McNeil; Wood, Barnes (Rodriguez 77). Substitutes: Norris, Stephens, Vydra, Dunne, Glennon.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Sat, Dec 5, 2020