It was raining goals for Burnley as an Ashley Barnes brace and a Johann Berg Gudmundsson strike saw Sean Dyche’s men to victory over Southampton on a wet and windy afternoon in East Lancashire.
Story of the match
The first half was symptomatic of the drab weather conditions.
There was lots of endeavour from both teams. Southampton looked to play out from the back and pass their way through the lines. Burnley were very assured in transitioning the ball out of their defence but then opted to go direct too often. Neither team found much success but the visitors did forge a decent opportunity.
Nathan Redmond, Southampton’s best player, sized up Matt Lowton before cutting inside and forcing Nick Pope into an excellent save.
The main talking points of the first half were VAR orientated but the introduction of the assistant referee wasn't necessarily appreciated by the home faithful. Chris Wood was denied a goal after being teed up by Barnes; Barnes' initial run was just offside. It later highlighted a high challenge on Ben Mee from Che Adams but no further action was taken by referee Graham Scott.
The Saints started the second half better with Ryan Bertrand striking a free kick narrowly over the bar but it was the Clarets who took the lead just after the hour.
In clearing the ball, Erik Pieters hoofed it high into the air but, in the windy conditions, Jannik Vestergaard badly misjudged the flight of the ball. The defender slipped and allowed Barnes in behind. While Jack Stephens seemed to have covered his team-mate, Barnes managed to power an early shot through the legs of Angus Gunn, breaking the deadlock at Turf Moor.
It wasn’t long before the dynamic duo of Pieters and Barnes were delivering the goods again.
Pieters would count himself a tad fortunate to have racked up an assist earlier on but there was nothing fortunate about his second. The former Stoke City defender provided a wonderful curling cross for Barnes to rifle in his second goal of the match.
At this point it was one-way traffic. The momentum had entirely shifted into Burnley's favour.
Bertrand came out second-best to Gudmundsson in a 50:50 duel for a loose ball. The Icelandic international powered past the wing-back before coming inside and beautifully bending a strike across Gunn.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg's casual back pass was intercepted by Barnes but he couldn't claim his hat-trick. The striker rounded Gunn but the Southampton goalkeeper recovered well to turn the forthcoming effort behind for a corner.
The heavens had opened for Burnley but they were not accommodating for saints.
Takeaways from the match
Efficient Burnley take advantage
Burnley weren't at their brilliant best for the first hour of the match but really took advantage when they did carve out some chances. Barnes had no right to score the first goal and, while Gunn will feel he should keep it out, the striker deserves credit for chasing down a hopeful long punt.
The other two goals were excellent finishes. Barnes may be relatively close to the goal but his emphatic volleyed finish should not be understated. The cross from Pieters was also outstanding and not something the watching faithful necessarily expected of him. Gudmundsson’s strike was superb and the Burnley fans will expect more of this end product from the winger.
Burnley aren’t always a team that creates a multitude of chances so it’s important that they show a clinical edge when they get them.
Trust in the build-up
Tarkowski and Mee were excellent and one thing they did particularly well was show composure on the ball. They are very comfortable in passing the ball on the floor.
It can be quite frustrating, therefore, to see the ball too frequently fired aimlessly to the two strikers. Burnley have some good technical players and it makes sense to use them. Ashley Westwood is an excellent passer. Gudmundsson is very good with the ball on the floor. It doesn’t always have to go long.
Last season, Watford found a good blend of a going direct and playing out from the back. It would be good to see Burnley find a better compromise.
Defensive woes but attacking potential for Saints
Southampton looked like a very astute outfit for an hour, but their defensive Achilles-heel reared its ugly head. The reason why manager Ralph Hasenhüttl prefers a back-three (or a back-five) is because it gives his defenders less responsibility. In other words, if a player makes an error than he will have someone close by to intervene. Going forward, the have a lot going for them but they will want to get rid of their defensive lapses.
They have a lot of players that are comfortable on the ball and their wing-back threat was evident. Yan Valery and Bertrand caused Burnley problems with their purposeful runs into the final-third. Southampton fans shouldn’t be too upset with their opening day blank. Goals will come; they have strings to their bow.
Man of the match
Barnes always gives his absolute all so it’s nice when he’s rewarded with goals. Two goals that were impressive in different ways.
Tarkowski, meanwhile, was a colossus at the back. He gave no change to Danny Ings or Adams and was confident in playing the ball out of defence, too.
It’s a brilliant start for Burnley and it’s very important that they got the three points. Arsenal, Wolves and Liverpool are up next, and the Clarets can now feel more relaxed about taking on these tough challenges.
These types of matches will test Burnley’s defensive resolve and Dyche will relish a defence-first approach to these games.
There were positives for Southampton but the tough start could be set to continue.
Liverpool and Manchester United are two of the next three opponents for Hasenhüttl. In the long term, this team should be fine as they have a good manager and an exciting array of attacking talents. A main focus should be on defensive discipline.