After spending much of the second half trying to repel an aerial barrage from Luton Town, it seemed unlikely that Burnley would have anything left when their resistance broke in the 84th minute. What happened next was proof resilience is not only about crunching tackles and clearing headers.
Jacob Bruun Larsen showed that technique also matters. Before half-time the story was of Burnley outmanoeuvring Luton and going ahead with a lovely goal from Lyle Foster. Vincent Kompany was edging the tactical battle but Rob Edwards responded. Luton were hoping to go three unbeaten and were on course to stay clear of another of the promoted sides when Elijah Adebayo equalised.
As Kenilworth Road erupted few imagined the joy would be so short-lived. “We’re flat and hurting,” Edwards said, trying to make sense of parity lasting all of 65 seconds before Bruun Larsen brilliantly restored Burnley’s lead. “We adjusted well in the second half. We had 15 shots inside the box and only scored one. That’s the hardest bit in football: to score a goal.”
Larsen offered a demonstration of how to do it after coming off the bench. The twist arrived when he cut in from the right, moved on to his left foot and bent a beautiful shot beyond Thomas Kaminski from 20 yards.
Luton, guilty of allowing their focus to drop, were shattered. Burnley, who remain in the bottom three on goal difference, had their first league win in seven games this season. For Kompany, the hope will be it gives them the belief they can stay up.
“It had been coming,” Burnley’s manager said. “It was a very complete performance in the first half. The second half had to be a battle. For those who followed us in the Championship, you know we enjoy these type of games. I’ll never shy away from a battle.” The sight of Carlton Morris and Chiedozie Ogbene tearing forward to close down Burnley’s goalkeeper, James Trafford, after five seconds was an early signal of Luton’s determination to build on their win over Everton.
Once the game settled down, though, Burnley took charge. Josh Brownhill, Sander Berge and Josh Cullen controlled midfield. Luton were fortunate not to go behind when Brownhill’s corner found Ameen Al-Dakhil. Kaminski did well to push the defender’s header over.
Burnley went close again when Brownhill whipped a shot over from 25 yards, then when Zeki Amdouni fired wide. Luton, who had to bring Reece Burke on for the injured Amari’i Bell, craved such finesse. Their best moments came from wide deliveries, Ogbene and Jacob Brown both glancing wide.
Yet the concern for Edwards was how Burnley were outnumbering Marvelous Nakamba and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu in the middle. At a tactical disadvantage, Luton’s inability to respond cost them when Berge released Foster after escaping Mpanzu. Onside and free of Tom Lockyer, Foster ran clear to slide a low shot past Kaminski.
Luton improved in the second half. Adebayo’s introduction allowed them to switch from a 3-4-2-1 system to 4-4-2 and the equaliser almost arrived moments later. Brown headed goalwards and Cullen somehow cleared off the line.
Burnley fell back, almost conceding a penalty when Jordan Beyer challenged Morris, and Luton refused to stop. The reward arrived when Adebayo, collecting Burke’s header from Tahith Chong’s deep cross, turned and fired past Trafford. Bruun Larsen would have the final say.