Crystal Palace players win their personal duels against Burnley as counter strategy works a treat at Turf Moor

BURNLEY 0
CRYSTAL PALACE 2
Zaha 45+1 Schlupp 78
BY ROB SUTHERLAND AT TURF MOOR

It’s a cliche to say that a visit to Turf Moor always results in a battle – or that it’s a difficult place to go and get a win. But it’s a cliche because, for most sides, it’s true.

No team travels to Burnley expecting an easy ride. The Clarets are supreme in their organisation and their absolute commitment to manager Sean Dyche’s game plan. Just knowing what to expect doesn’t mean you’re prepared for what you’re going to face.

Crystal Palace won the game with a goal just before half-time from Wilfried Zaha and a late effort from second-half substitute Jeffrey Schlupp in a bruising encounter in Lancashire.

Burnley players typically aim to turn any match-up they have into personal duels. If your job is to mark Ashley Barnes, the striker will make it his job to bully you. Just as it was the case for Phil Bardsley facing Zaha, or Jeff Hendrick facing James McArthur.

They harry, frustrate and intimidate and for the most part it’s a tactic that is highly effective  – Burnley have won four of their seven home games this season.

Burnley push up against opponents and aim to feed off scraps. It takes mental and tactical discipline to face up to that challenge and win.

For Palace, much of the credit will go to the backline for how they dealt with the threat brought by Chris Wood, Dwight McNeil and Barnes. But it was that tactical discipline, mainly from Palace’s midfield, that made the telling contribution.

Roy Hodgson’s approach was to have Palace’s midfield sit deep, drawing in their opponents and then hitting Burnley on the counter-attack.

Out of possession, James McArthur was tasked with marking Hendrick while Cheikh Kouyate and Luka Milivojevic were given responsibility for picking up those scraps.

It resulted in Milivojevic having to deal with the constant presence of Barnes and all that entails.

When faced with that physicality, strength and gamesmanship you have to show focus out of possession and sensibility in it. The Serbian midfielder did a sterling job of winning that personal battle and keeping his cool in the face of constant pressure.

In possession, the aim was to move the ball forward promptly and concisely, a role that  Kouyate was typically tasked with. He frequently picked the ball up from deep areas and drove it forward, finding Zaha and Townsend in space to prompt counter-attacking moves.

It was effective.

Burnley manager Dyche credited Palace for the way they defended and earned a first clean sheet in seven Premier League outings.

“They stayed well within their shape and broke from it when they needed to,” said the former Millwall centre-back. “The margins are tight in a game like that. Palace can absorb a game and wait for their chance to build and they did that.

“They do it well away. They stay in their structure and break away.”

Hodgson felt the result was fair, despite Barnes and Wood missing a couple of gilt-edged opportunities.

Burnley had 15 shots against Crystal Palace – the most they have managed in a Premier League home game without scoring since August 2017.

“I didn’t really feel they were creating chance after chance,” said Hodgson. “But at 2-0 it really was all hands at the pump, with lots of balls played into the penalty area and there were a couple of occasions where the ball could have gone into the back of the net.

“On the other hand we were countering and had a few chances of our own.”

Palace face Bournemouth tonight, a game that will pose a less physical but equally as difficult challenge.

Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Guaita 9, Van Aanholt 8, Dann 8 (Sakho 59, 8), Tomkins 9, Kelly 7, Kouyate 8, Milivojevic 8, McArthur 7, Townsend 7 (Schlupp 69, 8), Zaha 8, Ayew 7 (Benteke 82). Not used: Hennessey, Riedewald, McCarthy, Camarasa.

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