Fulham’s race has been contested and, although they have seen good margins against them in recent weeks, this time there was no bad luck to tell. They were as methodical and controlled as ever, but they lacked the strength and ultimately the degree of unpredictability that could have dragged Burnley into the mud of the descent. Instead, Scott Parker and his players have fallen into the trap, the second yo-yo team that has been doomed to more of the same after West Brom’s disappearance the day before, and were simply beaten by a better side. Burnley did a period of fierce pressure late in the first half count, Ashley Westwood and Chris Wood scored clinically and ensured a sixth straight season at the top tier.
Despite Fulham’s good intentions, the last rites were being rehearsed at half-time. Their problem all season long has been that the periods of fair and orderly play haven’t given in enough while clinical opponents punish them – warning signs had started to be posted here before Burnley, happy to get the men involved in an effort. for making their last three games feel. considerably less burdensome, it effectively sealed its fate.
The first game was well worked, Matt Lowton directed a diagonal ball to Matej Vydra and invited the forward to run into space from the left. Vydra passed out of Joachim Andersen and, barely managing to keep the ball in, cut sharply from the baseline. Alphonse Areola got an extended toe on his center, but Westwood, who came from midfield, readjusted his feet to pinch home his second goal in three games. Vydra had achieved an almost identical finish for Wood a little earlier, but he had raced beyond the bounds of the field this time; he didn’t need to worry that there might be few more opportunities.
Shortly before Westwood’s goal, Wood had seen a nose dive that dived within millimeters of Tosin Adarabioyo before forcing Areola to save point-blank from the next corner. He would not be denied as the interval approached. Fulham already appeared to have received a terminal jolt, Vydra whipped across the goal and wide, and Wood brought them down with a forceful blow. He was a bit lucky when the ball bounced off to Josh Brownhill, but he caught the return pass from his colleague and gave Areola no chance with a fierce half volley. He brought Wood’s tally in the Premier League over the past two seasons to 25 and kept the idea that there may not be more underrated center forward in the league.
Parker had yelled hoarsely to himself from the side, and Fulham, forcing the issue for the first half hour, tried to respond to his demands. But they had little to show for their pressure beyond a flurry that saw James Tarkowski superbly deny Ademola Lookman a shot from close range before, seconds later, Lookman headed from six yards.
Aleksandar Mitrovic was selected up front, but the closest he offered to a warrior’s performance was a senseless foul on Tarkowski. He had scored twice the last time Burnley got here in the league, nearly three years ago, but a performance that felt the galaxies drift away. Fulham made sustained efforts to make up the deficit after halftime, Josh Maja pushed from the bench to reinforce his threat, and Mitrovic headed to the side net just before the hour.
However, his sustained attacks now showed little conviction, and Burnley rarely seemed uncomfortable. Parker’s team hadn’t racked up a three-goal loot since the second weekend of the season and the chances of a replay against highly trained opponents seemed extremely slim. They howled for a penalty after Charlie Taylor dispossessed Ivan Cavaleiro in the area, but to no avail and, when André-Franck Zambo Anguissa rocked the crossbar from 18 yards with his best effort of the night, the game was as good as above. .
Burnley had offered little as striking force after coming up two, although he rightly felt aggrieved, Areola was not sent off after replays showed he was driving out of the box when Vydra looked past him. Yet that flash of controversy never seemed remotely consistent. When Mitrovic nodded a minute to play, Parker looked with his arms crossed and knew he would be asking Fulham to wake up once again in the Championship.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism