Burnley registered their first home win under Vincent Kompany, beating Millwall 2-0 to move onto the shoulder of Championship leaders Sheffield United.
A dour encounter was sparked into life by the arrival of Belgium Under-21 winger Manuel Benson in the second half, as he teed up Vitinho for the opening goal before Jay Rodriguez slid in a second.
Burnley had drawn all three of their previous home games and against a rugged Millwall defence it had started to look like they would fail to build on an emphatic 5-1 win at Wigan on Saturday.
For the Lions, their search for a victory away from home goes on and defeat at Turf Moor made it three losses in a row for the London side.
The first half saw Millwall sitting deep and seeking to counter methodical Burnley, and the visitors’ robust approach saw Charlie Cresswell, Shaun Hutchinson and Andreas Voglsammer all go in the book.
Dutch midfielder Zian Flemming, making his first start, had the Lions’ best attempt, curling a free-kick over the wall and towards the top corner, only for Burnley keeper Ari Muric to make an acrobatic save to his left.
Moments later Nathan Tella’s brilliant control from a Muric pass forced Cresswell into a desperate challenge that earned him a yellow card, and from the 20-yard free-kick Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s shot was parried by Millwall goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, with Charlie Taylor unable to turn in the rebound.
Jay Rodriguez fired into the side netting after George Saville’s tackle on Josh Brownhill luckily fell into his path, and at the other end Flemming forced Muric into another fingertip save after Voglsammer’s perceptive 40-yard pass had found him in space.
From the ensuing corner Jake Cooper’s header was blocked but Cresswell was first to the loose ball and his shot clipped the outside of the Burnley post.
The introduction of Benson as a 57th-minute substitute for Gudmundsson instantly pepped up the Burnley attack, as he skipped to the byline and crossed. Rodriguez’s shot was blocked but the ball fell to Tella, who forced Bialkowski to parry over the bar with a fierce rising drive.
Moments later Benson was carving open the defence again, curving in a cross meant for the head of Rodriguez. The striker was inches away from it but Vitinho darted in at the far post to head the Clarets into a 62nd-minute lead.
Ten minutes later they doubled their lead as Connor Roberts slid a neat pass down the side of the Millwall defence, freeing Brownhill for a shot from an angle. His attempt was blocked by Bialkowski but Rodriguez was on hand to slide the rebound home.
What the managers said…
Burnley’s Vincent Kompany: “We were patient but kept a nice tempo, taking time to build attacks and get into good areas. When we got the one chance and took it, the game opened up for us.
“I had in my mind during this game what Anass could do in a game like this. He is a player who finds gaps in teams that sit deep and can take players on. He has a lot of progress to make – he is only 20. But he is part of a very, very good Belgium Under-21 team, an important player in a very good squad. He is a big talent but I hope we can turn him into a really good player for this club.”
Millwall’s Gary Rowett: “I told the players afterwards we don’t have many players at the moment saying ‘You have to pick me every week’ and we are better than that. Maybe we have to bring a few players in in the next few days. We are working hard to do that, to see if that can spark this team into better performances.
“I am really disappointed because in the first half we held our shape tactically and the front three made it very, very difficult for them to play through us, and we had moments in that first half. It’s little moments that are costing us. Burnley are a good side who have more possession than their opponents and you have to be disciplined and take your moments in transition. The first goal gave them a massive lift and we went a little bit ragged and conceded further chances because we were chasing the game.”
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