02 Dec Demarai Gray’s early goal gives Leicester the points against Burnley
Talk of Burnley qualifying for Europe was dealt a sobering blow with defeat at improving Leicester.
It has mainly been those outside of Turf Moor who have contemplated the possibility of a first European campaign for the club since 1960-61 but some fans have begun to dream following Burnley’s surprise start to the campaign, with the owners of one pub in the Lancashire town promising to rename their establishment “The Royal Dyche” should the Clarets qualify for either the Europa League or Champions League.
Burnley’s opponents were a reminder of what can be achieved against the odds and the 2015-16 Premier League champions continued their own upward trajectory with a 1-0 success on Saturday courtesy of Demarai Gray’s early goal.
Leicester have impressed under Claude Puel and this was a third win in his six matches in charge, while the loss saw Burnley slip a place in the table but they still occupy the heady heights of seventh spot.
After victory against Tottenham in midweek Puel had warned his team not to underestimate Burnley and they heeded his advice by making a bright start, taking the lead after six minutes.
Riyad Mahrez’s inswinging cross from the left looked to be creeping in at the far post, forcing Nick Pope to dive to his right and push the ball away. But he could only parry it into the path of the oncoming Gray, who collided with the frame of the goal as he slid in to finish from point-blank range.
Like Gray, Burnley recovered well and Chris Wood, a former Leicester player, quickly had a good chance to equalise. Phil Bardsley’s low cross was deflected into the path of Wood but the striker’s first touch with his chest was heavy and it allowed Kasper Schmeichel to smother the danger.
James Tarkowski headed wide from a corner and Johann Berg Gudmundsson worked Schmeichel again as the midway point of the first half approached.
Burnley looked menacing once more after half an hour as Robbie Brady worked a shooting opportunity 18 yards out but Harry Maguire nicked the ball away as he pulled the trigger, resulting in a nasty-looking collision of shins.
Both players laid on the ground in some pain and after receiving some treatment Brady was carried from the field on a stretcher and replaced by Scott Arfield.
The injury appeared to upset Burnley’s rhythm and either side of half-time Leicester assumed control. Mahrez worked Pope with a 22-yard strike following a mazy run and Wes Morgan had an effort cleared off the line by Phil Bardsley after Jamie Vardy had mis-hit his attempt.
Burnley remained a threat though and Schmeichel had to be alert to deny Steven Defour and then Gudmundsson, who was put through on goal by Jeff Hendrick’s pass.
Back at the other end, Gray came close to a second goal midway through the second half when he steered a shot goalwards which clipped the outside of a post, before Pope saved well from Marc Albrighton and Vardy.
There were chances at both ends in injury time. Leicester survived a heart-stopping moment when Gudmundsson’s low cross deflected straight into the grateful arms of Schmeichel while Pope got down to his right to make a good save to deny Mahrez.