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Match Reports

Burnley 4 Sunderland 1

31 December 2016

Burnley 4 Sunderland 1

Hat-trick hero Andre Gray bridged a 40-year gap with the goals that set up Burnley's biggest win of the season and lifted them to within one place of the top half of the Premier League.

Gray - now the Clarets' top scorer with five goals for the season - became the first Burnley player to score three times in a top-flight fixture since Peter Noble in 1975.



And the revitalised striker could barely have timed his goal burst of four goals in two games any better as a seventh home win of the season capped a perfect Christmas period and lifted Sean Dyche's side nine points clear of Sunderland in the final relegation slot as the campaign reaches its half-way point.

Gray's treble - bagged in the space of 22 remarkable minutes either side of half time and complemented by an Ashley Barnes penalty - came almost a year to the day since his hat-trick against Bristol City sparked the Clarets' remarkable run to promotion.



And his latest collectors' item felt almost as important as Burnley rounded off a magical year with a magnificent performance and a result that firmly underlined their Premier League credentials.

With Jeff Hendrick suspended, Steven Defour returned to the Clarets' midfield in one of two changes from the Burnley side that had set up their North-East one-two by beating Middlesbrough on Boxing Day.

The recall of Matt Lowton at right-back following his own ban was the other swap, while Dean Marney's recovery from the knock he picked up against Boro allowed the long-serving midfielder to clock up his 200th league appearance for the Clarets.

And this was also a landmark day for defender Ben Mee, who made his 200th Burnley appearance.



Lowton, Mee and defensive colleagues Michael Keane and Stephen Ward were busy early on as Sunderland made a positive start, on-loan Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj lifting a shot over the bar from the visitors' best opening.

But Burnley gradually upped the tempo with Gray twice failing to locate the target after cleverly making space to shoot and then hitting the side-netting after over-running a through-ball from George Boyd.

Gray's winning goal against Boro seemed to have done wonders for his confidence, though, and his threat paid off with the opening goal after half an hour as the Clarets grabbed a priceless lead to set them on their way.

Sunderland had lost the services of injured centre-back Lamine Kone, with captain John O'Shead moving back from a holding midfield role to deputise.

And it was O'Shea's touch under a challenge from Barnes with defensive colleague Papy Djilobodoji too closely in attendance that freed Gray for a run at goal.



The striker had Vitor Mannone - back in the Sunderland goal following a long-term injury to Jordan Pickford - to beat but out-foxed the former Arsenal keeper by delaying his finish to coolly slot the ball past the wrong-footed Black Cats' number-one.

Sensing the chance to gain further control, the Clarets then went close to a second as another fine move ended with Gray picking out Scott Arfield for an effort he dragged wide.

And Ward then poked the ball across the face of goal at full stretch following a fine Lowton cross six minutes before the end of a half marred only by the booking of Marney, following an apparent over-reaction from Januzaj, which will keep him out of Monday's trip to Manchester City.



Sunderland had won four of their last eight games in an effort to get out of the relegation zone but had lost their last three away games and Burnley were in no mood to let them off the hook as Gray's double-blast at the start of the second half completed the kill.

Gray was giving former Chelsea defender Djilobodfji a torrid time and gave him the slip again to make it 2-0.

Marney's ball over the top set Gray on his way and with Mannone again finding himself in no-man's land, the rampant front man touch the ball round him before making a tricky finish look easy as he rolled an angle shot into the empy net.

 

A rocking Turf Moor prepared to celebrate a memorable 12 months in joyous fashion and the New Year's Eve party started in ernest when Gray struck again less than three minutes later to complete his hat-trick.

Again Sunderland didn't help their cause when Steven Pienaar, a half-time replacement for the injured Victor Anichebe, fell over the ball near half-way.

But Burnley were clinical in their execution as Defour clipped the ball forward for Barnes to chest the ball down and then feed Gray to side-foot past Mannone in ruthless style.



Fabio Borini's long-range effort which cleared the bar at the other end was all Sunderland could offer in response and Gray almost got a fourth with an effort blocked by Djilobodji.

The wait didn't last long, though, as it did become 4-0 after 66 minutes as Barnes took the responsibility for despatching the spot-kick conceded when Seb Larsson bundled over Arfield in the box.



A second successive clean sheet eluded the Clarets when some individual brilliance from Januzaj set up Jermain Defoe to drill in his ninth goal of the season.

But that couldn't take any of the gloss off a memorable afternoon that could prove to be a major milestone in the Clarets' bid for a prolonged Premier League stay - a week before the two sides meet again in the FA Cup third round.

Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward, Boyd, Marney, Defour (Gudmundsson 67), Arfield, Gray (Vokes 78), Barnes (Tarkowski 85). Substitutes: Robinson, Darikwa, O'Neill, Bamford.
Booked: Marney.

Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, van Aaanholt, Djilobodji, Kone (Ndong 24), O'Shea (Love 72), Januzaj, Larsson, Anichebe (Pienaar ht), Borini, Defoe. Substitutes: Domingues, Rodwell, Khazri, Manquillo.
Booked: Jones

Referee: Graham Scott

Att:  21,124 (2430)



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