Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson says his side are still “looking to survive” despite Bakary Sako’s winner against Burnley at Selhurst Park moving them five points above the Premier League relegation zone.
Sako cut in powerfully from the left following good work by Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke, before drilling a left-footed shot that went straight through Clarets goalkeeper Nick Pope for his second goal in as many games.
Hodgson accepted Palace could “look at the league table for a week or two”, but when pressed on whether he was looking up after beating the seventh-placed Clarets, he said: “No. We are looking to survive.”
Hodgson, whose side have lost just once in their past 12 league games, added: “We will be delighted if at the end of the season we are a point above the relegation zone. We will never waver from that.”
Palace had chances to make their margin of victory bigger – Ben Mee clearing from under his own crossbar, with James McArthur lurking, after Zaha hooked the ball over Pope.
Benteke wasted a third Palace chance in quick succession when heading narrowly over from Luka Milivojevic’s corner, before Ashley Barnes saw his shot the edge of the area tipped over by Wayne Hennessey at the other end.
The visitors introduced new loan signing Georges-Kevin Nkoudou in search of an equaliser, but the second half lacked the attacking quality of the first, as Sam Vokes and then Benteke put efforts into the side-netting.
Tempers flared late on when Charlie Taylor sent Zaha tumbling into a pitchside television camera and cameramen, but calm was restored, and referee Michael Oliver deemed a booking for Taylor was punishment enough.
Palace lay down a marker
Palace’s previous meeting with Burnley brought about the end of Hodgson’s predecessor, Frank de Boer, so this was a real marker for their progress under the former England boss.
Under the 70-year-old’s stewardship, the south London club have taken 25 points from 19 games. They had none – and had not even scored a goal – in their first seven matches.
After the reverse fixture, Palace chairman Steve Parish caused a stir by asking his Twitter followers: “Who has the better squad, us or Burnley?”. On the evidence of this match, it was clearly the former.
They hustled Burnley and looked the more likely to score the game’s second goal, with Zaha’s passing carving open Sean Dyche’s side on a number of occasions and Timothy Fosu-Mensah delivering in both defence and attack.
And this from a side who started the match without eight first-team regulars, including Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mamadou Sakho.
Has Burnley’s bubble burst?
Last Saturday’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester City was a rare humbling for Dyche’s Burnley this season.
The manager will have wanted a response from his side, and should feel they gave him one despite being unable to take advantage of what few chances they did create.
However, that cup exit combined with a run of six league games without a win, has seen hopes of keeping pace with the top six dwindle over the past month.
It is a mark of Burnley’s performances this season that their winless run is such a talking point but, though they remain seventh, they have lost their first three competitive matches of a calendar year for the first time since 1987 – and have a meeting with Manchester United at Turf Moor next.
Dyche said he was “not concerned” by their latest defeat, but more of a worry – and surely something that is in the minds of future opponents – is the fact the Clarets are now winless in all 49 Premier League matches under Dyche when they have conceded the opening goal, losing 40 of those.
‘We’re looking up – for now’ – what they said
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson: “It was a massive three points. We knew it would be very, very tough.
“We knew they would get stronger and more questions would be asked of our back four and goalkeeper. I’m delighted we were able to withstand that test. They are very good at what they do – a strong team, a physical team.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche: “I think overall we deserved something from the game – a draw really. It was a bit of a ding dong – them better in the first half, us in the second.
“It is a fact we are six without a win. We are Burnley Football Club, we are progressing. We won three out of four just before that. If you mix it up over the season we are moving forward. You have to be the right side of the margins and we just haven’t been this month.”
Pass master Hennessey? – the stats
- Crystal Palace’s victory was their 50th at home in the Premier League.
- The Eagles have now kept consecutive home clean sheets in the Premier League – having had just one in their previous 14 at Selhurst Park.
- Sako has scored more goals in all competitions than any other Crystal Palace player, with his strike on Saturday being his sixth of the season.
- Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made more passes than any other Crystal Palace player in the match (36).
- Only Southampton (10) are on a longer winless run in the Premier League than Burnley (six).
Man of the match – Bakary Sako (Crystal Palace)
Palace will swap south London for north London in their next Premier League fixture, as they travel to Arsenal on Saturday, 20 January (15:00 GMT). Burnley host Manchester United at Turf Moor at the same time.