Brighton and Hove Albion produced a blistering six-minute spell to come back from a goal down to beat Burnley on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Second-half goals from Neal Maupay and Alexis Mac Allister cancelled out James Tarkowski’s third-minute header at Turf Moor, giving The Seagulls the best possible start to the campaign.
The Clarets were made to pay for missing a host of opportunities in the first half, before astute changes from Graham Potter swung the game back in his favour.
Burnley weren’t clinical enough and it paid
After Tarkowski’s opener, Burnley were almost in cruise control.
Chris Wood stung the palms of Roberto Sanchez in the visiting goal, Jack Cork saw an effort sail over the bar that he should have kept down and Jay Rodriguez found the gloves of the ‘keeper when should have done better.
On top of that, the hosts hit the woodwork twice in the opening period, firstly through Johann Berg Gudmundsson who’s effort struck the inside of the post, before captain Ben Mee rattled the crossbar with a header from a corner.
Tarkowski then acrobatically volleyed well over the top from the rebound when he had the whole of the goal to find, and it was starting to seem like one of those ever-common days in front of goal for Burnley.
At halftime, you couldn’t help but think that they would rue the chances.
And they did.
Leading in the 72nd minute to behind in the 78th minute shows how quickly a game can get away.
But it should have been out of sight.
It isn’t a personnel issue either, Wood is one of the League’s top marksmen, Tarkowski and Mee have scored a number of times from set-pieces and Gudmundsson knows how to hit one.
But they need to be more clinical in front of goal when they get these chances.
The game could have been wrapped up inside half an hour.
So, how do they become more clinical?
It’s not a case of making them better finishers, it is about creating easier opportunities.
Wood is a physical player, so get the ball into him and let him bully the defenders, or find him in the box for a header, but he can do it with his feet too.
Countless times last year, Wood was in behind and scored a number of good goals with his feet from being played into space.
So yes, it is a finishing issue at times and that can be worked on, but The Clarets should focus on creating simpler, easier opportunities where they are more likely to score from.
South coast striker search must continue despite victory
Maupay lead the line well at times yesterday.
He put himself about, was a nuisance for Mee and Tarkowski, and got his goal at a vital point in the game.
However, and it is a big, however, the need for an attacking focal point was as clear yesterday as it ever has been for Brighton.
For the first 60 minutes, the visitors were being pushed back and needed an outlet.
Maupay managed to hold the ball a couple of times, and won fouls from the two centre-halves, but couldn’t get his team into the game.
A new target man forward would be better equipped at dealing with the physical centre-halves, whereas Maupay can get off them and pick up loose balls of flick-ons.
His goal showed what he can do in the box, he gets into the right areas, puts his body on the line and will score plenty of goals from inside the six-yard box.
But, without a player alongside him who is going to get his body in between the ball and his marker and get the others involved, how many of those chances will he have again?
Brighton won’t be able to cut through as many teams as easily as Yves Bissouma did for the equaliser to find Jakub Moder on the right, they will need to be more direct at times.
Take a look at their opponents yesterday.
Burnley have the right formation with the big man/little man combination up front, and the wide players bombing on past them, just not quite the right players.
A player of the ilk of Chris Wood would be exceptional for the way Brighton like to play: someone who can hold the ball up, get others involved and score a variety of goals.
That would be the answer Potter is looking for, and would make this season a much more comfortable ride for Albion fans.
Potter’s magical substitutions the difference, showing Dyche what he’s missing
When Moder and Mac Allister came on, the game turned.
Both had immediate impacts, Moder getting the first assist with his first touch and the Argentina international found the net with his.
It was genius from Potter, but he took advantage of a tiring Burnley.
That was evident as Brighton powered through the middle and Moder found himself in acres of space to be able to pick out his pass.
And then, for the second goal, no one tracked Mac Allister’s run through the middle and he had the freedom of Lancashire to slot his finish home.
As Burnley needed inspiration, they had to bring off their most influential player in Dwight McNeil because he was shattered, replacing him with central midfielder Josh Brownhill.
Without sounding like a broken record, it highlighted the lack of depth within the Burnley squad once again.
Vydra, Brownhill and Ashley Barnes were the three players brought on to aid the recovery effort by Sean Dyche, arguably the best three players he could have brought on.
But, those three names aren’t three names you would think of as game-changers at Premier League level.
Adam Lallana also came on, he replaced debutant Enock Mwepu at halftime, and he had a big impact too.
He created a bridge between the midfield and attack that was missing before the interval.
Yet, when Burnley needed a spark from the bench, they didn’t get it because it wasn’t there.
McNeil had ran himself into the ground as he was expected to be the main man, running the show, but he just drifted away as he legs deserted him.
Gudmundsson started brightly but can’t keep that up for 90 minutes, so McNeil is expected to be creating from first whistle to last.
Looking at the Brighton squad, they have assets that can all create behind the striker.
Leandro Trossard, Pascal Gross, Solly March, Lallana and Mac Allister just to name a few all create plenty of chances for their side.
A player or two of similar quality, if not better – Maxwel Cornet for example – would lift that workload from McNeil and give Dyche something to work with when they need a goal in the last 10 minutes of a game.
It is the first game of the season, far too early to make assumptions, but Brighton and Hove Albion have made a great start, Burnley not so much.