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Match Reports

Burnley 0 Brighton 0

Point puts Clarets on brink of Europe with goal difference only barrier

28 April 2018

Start the engines, the European Tour can almost start.

Barring a freakish swing of goals over the final two games of the season, the Clarets have done enough to secure a place in the Europa League.

A chiselled-out point from this goalless draw was enough to see off the challenge of Leicester in the race for Europe as they were heavily beaten at Crystal Palace.

Fast-finishing Everton kept themselves nominally in the hunt with a win at Huddersfield Town.

But the Toffees need to make up a six-point gap and a goal difference deficit of 15 goals over the last two games to deny the Clarets a first place in european competition in over 50 years.

The champagne remains on ice but Sean Dyche’s heroes have almost done it as they made sure of a 12th clean sheet of the season in extending their recent run to just one defeat in nine games.

The resolution they have showed all season was again evident as Brighton were never really given a chance of spoiling the party – although a point for the Seagulls was just as valuable as they all but secured their Premier League status and back-to-back top-flight campaigns for the first time since the early 1980s.

In truth, the Clarets didn’t threaten too often themselves in a cagey contest as they failed to score for the first time in nine games.

But after a draining season they showed the nous and desire to secure the result that has made all the hard work worthwhile and is poised to take this crop of Clarets into club folklore.

Dyche’s side knew that any positive result would potentially get them over the finishing line – depending on how events panned out elsewhere – but there was no intention to just try and eke out a point in a forceful first-half performance.

Brighton’s desire to get their own job done and remove any doubt about their survival meant there would be no gifts on offer, however.

And Burnley had to work for hard for every little opening as they looked to get their noses in front and snap a run of four successive draws between the sides.

Brighton’s unbeaten seven-game run against the Clarets also gave Dyche’s men recent history to overcome but setting new marks has been a speciality this season and only Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan stood between Burnley and a half-time lead.

Ryan was rewarded for his bravery and athleticism in making a remarkable double save to deny former Brighton striker Ashley Barnes – and then claw the ball away from Jack Cork – after a free-kick from Johann Berg Gudmundsson sparked an incredible goalmouth scramble.

James Tarkowski kept the ball alive with a back-heel across the face of goal to reach Kevin Long, who stretched to steer a shot against the far post and then defender Lewis Dunk.

The Clarets claimed Dunk’s arm had blocked the ball with his arm and then arguably had a stronger claim for a first penalty in over a year turned down when a header from the outstanding Long hit the outstretched arm of Brighton captain Bruno.

Bruno had earlier had Brighton’s best chance of the half but volleyed wide when arriving unchecked beyond the far post from a corner.

But again it was the Clarets who went closes to breaking the deadlock with a couple more chances before the break.

Barnes met a near-post cross from Matt Lowton with an effort he steered into the arms of Ryan.

And then three minutes before half-time the ever-influential Gudmundsson forced the Australian into another fine save with a free-kick from just outside the penalty area.

Nick Pope had largely been a spectator at the other end but with Brighton starting the second half in more adventurous style needed to make a sharp save down at the foot of a post to keep out an angled drive from Pascal Gross.

The Clarets responded with Chris Wood almost finding a way through with a run at the heart of the Brighton defence and Ashley Westwood seeing a shot blocked when Gudmundsson picked him out just inside the box.

That was Wood’s last taste of the action as he limped off to be replaced by former Brighton loan man Sam Vokes as the Clarets went into the last 25 minutes seemingly one goal away from booking their European place.

Not for the first time Vokes almost provided it with his first touch as he nudged a Tarkowski flick-on goalwards.

That was to be the closest Burnley would come to a winner on an afternoon when the Clarets didn't really click. But with the door securely shut at the other end, this was the day that European football all but came a reality.

Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward, Lennon (Nkoudou 72), Cork, Westwood (Hendrick 81), Gudmundsson, Wood, Barnes. Substitutes: Heaton, Taylor, Wells, Bardsley.

Booked: None

Brighton: Ryan, Bruno (Schelotto 89), Dunk, Duffy, Bong, Gross, Kayal, Stephens, Izquierdo (March 85), Ulloa (Murray 67), Knockaert. Substitutes: Krul, Goldson, March, Locadia, Suttner.

Booked: Bong, Murray

Referee: Roger East

Attendance: 19,459

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