Ben Mee’s second-half header saw Burnley beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park as Sean Dyche’s side kept alive their hopes of qualifying for Europe next season.
In what was a battle of two mid-table teams in southeast London, it was the visitors who took the spoils when their captain headed home Ashley Westwood’s free kick just past the hour-mark for his first goal since January 2017.
And that was enough to propel Sean Dyche’s side up to eighth in the Premier League, a position which could potentially be enough to progress to the Europa League second qualifying round next season should Manchester City fail to overturn their European ban at the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
A lacklustre Palace, meanwhile, stay 11th in the table after back-to-back league defeats.
Palace: Guaita (6), Van Aanholt (6), Dann (6), Cahill (6), Ward (6), McArthur (7), Milivojevic (5), Kouyate (5), Townsend (5), Ayew (5), Zaha (5)
Subs: Meyer (6), McCarthy (6), Woods, Tavares, Tyrick Mitchell, Keutcha, Riedewald
Burnley: Pope (7), Taylor (8), Tarkowski (7), Mee (9), Pieters (7), Bardsley (7), Cork (6), Brownhill (7), Westwood (8), McNeil (7), Vydra (7)
Subs: Long (6)
Man of the match: Ben Mee
How in-form Clarets won battle of midtable teams
An under-strength Burnley arrived in the capital missing a number of first-team regulars and with only seven substitutes totalling a combined four minutes of top-flight football under their belts, not that it showed after a composed display.
The visitors controlled the game right from the start, albeit without creating too many clear-cut openings, especially in a disjointed first period.
However, after Jordan Ayew was fortunate to escape a red card when his flying elbow caught Josh Brownhill in the face – the Video Assistant Referee Graham Scott not deeming the incident as violent conduct – Burnley opened the scoring on 62 minutes.
The impressive Westwood clipped a free kick into the Palace box where Mee – on his 300th Burnley appearance – stooped to head home off the inside of the post, despite Vicente Guaita getting a good hand to the ball as the Spaniard conceded for the first time in more than seven hours of football.
Palace had key forward Wilfried Zaha available after the Ivorian was forced off early on with a calf injury at Anfield last Wednesday night. And there was more good news with ‘keeper Vicente Guaita also starting having recovered from a muscle problem, with the hosts making three changes from that loss at Liverpool with both captain Luka Milivojevic and defender Scott Dann returning in place of James McCarthy and Mamadou Sakho.
Meanwhile, Burnley made two changes with forward Jay Rodriguez, who was taken off late on in Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Watford after injuring his ankle having scored the winner at Turf Moor, missing out. And Sean Dyche brought in Erik Pieters and Phil Bardsley, with Matthew Lowton joining Rodriguez in not travelling to the capital.
Roy Hodgson’s side huffed and puffed thereafter, but rarely looked like scoring, while the Clarets are now 12 points better off than this stage last season after a recent run of just one defeat in 10.
- Crystal Palace have lost three of their last five Premier League home games (W2), as many defeats as they suffered in their previous 13 at Selhurst Park in the top-flight (W5 D5)
- Burnley secured their first Premier League win in their last 11 visits to London (D1 L9) and just their fourth overall in the capital in the competition (31 games)
- Crystal Palace’s starting line-up had an average age of 30 years and 323 days, the second-oldest in the Premier League this season (after the Eagles against Bournemouth on June 20 – 30y 334d)
- Burnley registered their 13th clean sheet of the Premier League season, their most-ever in a campaign in the competition
- Crystal Palace and Burnley have failed to score in the first half of more Premier League games this season than any other sides (24 each)
- Ashley Westwood registered his 14th Premier League assist for Burnley, with only Jóhann Gudmundsson managing more for the Clarets (16)
Man of the Match – Ben Mee
The Burnley skipper rightly earned huge praise for his condemnation of those Clarets fans who flew a White Lives Matter banner over the Etihad last week and the player should also get praise of a different nature after his assured display at Selhurst Park on Monday evening.
Not only did the 30-year-old score his side’s winner with a rare goal, but he was also part of a back line that barely gave their opponents a sniff all night, marshalling his fellow defenders superbly.
And if the centre back carries on performing like this, he cannot be too far away from a first-ever senior England callup.
What the managers said
Roy Hodgson: “We didn’t play anywhere near as well as we wanted. We were better in the second half, but unfortunately we conceded a goal from a set play, a goal we were disappointed to concede, and then we’re fighting an uphill battle against a well-organised side.
“We need goals, but at the moment we don’t have an awful lot of front players to choose from and if they get injured it becomes more difficult.”
Sean Dyche: “He’s [Mee] a fantastic captain. Not just with his strength and ability in the air, but he’s demanding on himself to win those challenges.
“It was a brilliant header and he had a brilliant header at the other end as well which could have gone in. But we’ve got a group that gave everything tonight.
“It’s been interesting to compute and to make sense of. But you saw a group tonight fully motivated, as am I.”
Palace take on Leicester City at the King Power Stadium at 3pm on Saturday, a match you can see live on Sky Sports.
Burnley, meanwhile, face Sheffield United at Turf Moor at noon on Sunday, and that game is also live on Sky Sports.