If you were looking for the perpetuated concept of FA Cup romanticism, then Turf Moor on Tuesday night was not the best place to look.
Goals from Sam Vokes and Andre Gray in either half settled this all-Premier League third round affair, with Burnley eliminating Sunderland in front of a scarcely half-full stadium. David Moyes may barely muster a shrug at the cup exit; he has far bigger fish to fry in the league.
For Sean Dyche, the win proved the Clarets had the depth in personnel – six changes were made from the weekend win over Southampton – and demonstrated they could balance a strong league campaign with the potential for a good cup run. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive, as some would have you believe.
Burnley tame the Black Cats
They were barely threatened all game, with even the introduction of the Mackem’s goal-poaching extraordinaire, Jermain Defoe, worrying to imbue a feeling of consternation among home supporters when he appeared as a second-half substitute.
Instead, it was Burnley who dominated proceedings, showing that they were capable of playing just as effectively when having the majority of the possession as they are when they do not see much of the ball. Intricate triangles of play between any given combination of the front six meant Sunderland spent most of the game chasing shadows.
As has been in the case in most games at Turf Moor this season, Burnley flew out of the traps in the opening exchanges as Joey Barton and Steven Defour, arguably among the best midfield axes the club has ever bore witness to, set the tempo.
Striker Vokes went close early on with a header, while Barton tested Vito Mannone from range shortly after. George Boyd, the Clarets’ marathon man, came closest with an angled drive that flew inches over the crossbar.
The game reached a slight nadir before the interval before Vokes graciously intervened, with the Welshman steering home Tendayi Darikwa’s whipped delivery into the far corner.
Andre Gray makes them pay
Moyes’ men returned from the break equally as downbeat as they had ended the first 45 minutes. Seb Larsson produced their only notable effort of the entire game up to that point within five minutes of the restart, but Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was not in need of divine intervention as the ball sailed over the bar.
Unable to stem the tide, Sunderland invited further Burnley pressure. Boyd came close with another tester for Mannone in drizzly conditions, before Jeff Hendrick failed to play in an onrushing Jon Flanagan when the pair were faced by Papy Djilobodji.
They were not to spurn another chance.Gray, the Mackems’ bete noire from a 4-1 hammering on New Year’s Day, came on from the bench and clearly smelt blood after his hat-trick two and a half weeks ago. Gray controlled Boyd’s knockdown, spun into space and rattled home the clincher for the hosts.
So Burnley through, Sunderland out. Bristol City are the Clarets’ opponents in the next round, and it is hard to imagine that for all their struggles in the Championship, they will surrender as meekly as Moyes’ men did on Tuesday night. Half-full Turf Moor, half-hearted Mackems performance: it’s the tragic of the FA Cup.