Sour taste left on Burnley’s European tour

Sour taste left on Burnley’s European tour

Incidents on and off the pitch ensured it was a night to forget for the Clarets.

Chris Lincoln

At 3-1 down and with the second leg to be contested at Turf Moor on Thursday, Burnley still have everything to play for in their Europa League playoff with Greek side Olympiacos.

However, if their trip to Athens is to be their last cross-border venture this season, they will be hoping the incidents of a challenging evening will not leave a negative legacy on their first season playing European football for over half a century.

Drama on the pitch

The draw against Olympiacos was always going to be a challenging one. Finishing third in the league ranked 15th on the globe is hardly great pedigree for their 2017-18 campaign but Olympiacos are a side of immense stature, winning all but three league titles since 1996.

Their home ground, the Karaiskakis Stadium, may only hold just over 30,000 but it invites one of the most hostile fanbases in European football – an experience numerous professional footballers have not forgotten.

Such an environment was in evidence again when Burnley visited on Thursday evening. The hostilities were reflected on the pitch as two penalties were awarded, one for either side, and 33 fouls given by referee Slavko Vincic.

Ben Gibson was sent off for the visitors on 59 minutes in a moment that turned the contest in favour of the hosts. The defender was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area and received a second yellow card before Greek international Kostas Fortounis converted his second of the game as Olympiacos went 3-1 ahead.

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'They were waiting for the referee'

Manager Sean Dyche was infuriated. He told the post-match media: ‘I don’t understand why he’s booked Ben Gibson…it’s hit his hip, then his hand. How can that be deemed deliberate handball? Then he gives him the yellow card and it’s probably the world record for how quickly he got it out of his pocket.’

Yet Dyche felt that Vincic couldn’t cope with the pressure in such a hostile environment. The officials were subjected to an array of verbal abuse when Burnley were awarded a first-half penalty converted by Chris Wood.

Dyche explained how the referee was surrounded at half-time as the feelings of the game changed after the break. He told BBC Sport: ‘The scenes I saw at half-time from all and sundry around the referee on their side, you’re left scratching your head. They were waiting for the referee. You all saw the pressure of the game was different in the second half.’

Fans stabbed and detained during ugly scenes

Tempers also boiled over outside of the stadium. One Burnley fan was stabbed in the leg and four more injured as some Clarets clashed with home fans. 23 visitors were reported to have been detained for being drunk and disorderly.

A statement from Burnley read: ‘The vast majority were once again impeccably behaved…however, five of our supporters were unfortunately injured – including a person who received a stab wound to the leg.’

Yet there were concerns as to how the incidents occurred with the statement concluding: ‘Those injured all travelled to the stadium outside the organised travel operation.’

Burnley now need to win by two goals or more in the return leg on an evening they will be hoping is free from controversy.