Matej Vydra produced a moment of magic to end his goalscoring drought to keep Burnley looking up in the Premier League after inflicting defeat on a Southampton side still nervously peering over their shoulder. Vydra, a first-half substitute, scored his first goal for 511 days to fire his side to victory in filthy conditions on the south coast after a freakish goal by Ashley Westwood opened the scoring.
Danny Ings cancelled out Westwood’s strike direct from a corner for his 15th goal of the season but Burnley held on to earn victory.
Vydra’s finish was exquisite, the raking diagonal ball by Jeff Hendrick wondrous, leading to Sean Dyche to playfully poke fun at the reputation that sometimes precedes his side. “What a fine pass,” he said of Hendrick’s role in the winner. “That is a 35-metre ball, so that will be classed as a long ball. When people talk about long balls, they say that derogatorily.
“But that was a fantastic ball. I love that, and it was great movement from Vyds as well, who just comes away from the centre-half, three yards, gets turned and it is an absolutely fantastic finish. He caught it so clean.”
Victory moves Burnley to within five points of fifth-placed Sheffield United after stretching their unbeaten run to four matches but Dyche was quick to dampen the excitement before they host Bournemouth next Saturday. “The last time we got into the Europa [League] we always had that mentality that the next game is the most important and I’ve always had that because I think it’s the most appropriate,” the Burnley manager said. “Once you start overthinking things that sometimes can be an enemy to you. Our next performance is the most important one.”
This was a reverse of the opening game of the season but Ralph Hasenhüttl was left similarly deflated at the final whistle. In August, he bemoaned seven weeks of pre-season training going to waste in an instant after his team’s second-half capitulation but here, after a brief winter break following their FA Cup fourth-round replay defeat to Tottenham, it took 95 seconds for four days of work to unravel. Ings, guarding the near post, allowed Westwood’s whipped corner to creep in, purposefully bending out of the way to allow the ball smooth passage, much to the surprise of Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal.
Ings, having been flummoxed by Westwood’s in-swinging corner, was determined to redeem himself and, despite his team going home empty-handed, it was inevitably he earned them a lifeline 15 minutes after gifting Burnley the opener. Ben Mee and Jack Cork failed to clear the danger on the edge of their penalty area, inviting Ings to pick up the loose ball, wriggle into an alcove of space and power a superb strike into a pocket of Nick Pope’s goal; only Sergio Agüero and Jamie Vardy have scored more Premier League goals this season.
A vicious swirling wind, hail and relentless rain kept things interesting and the game occasionally drifted into slapstick, be it defenders skidding on the turf as they desperately tried to clear their lines or Pope in effect capsizing after booting the ball downfield.
The keeper superbly denied the Southampton captain, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, approaching stoppage time, while the hosts also had a penalty appeal turned down late on, when the video assistant referee, Michael Oliver, deemed Mee did not handball Jack Stephens’s cross, much to Hasenhüttl’s fury. “I don’t discuss it [VAR] anymore,” he said. “I don’t see a clear line.”
Vydra, though, made light of the challenging conditions to score a classy winner having replaced the hamstrung Chris Wood. Hendrick flighted a wonderful pass downfield towards Vydra, who effortlessly chested the ball away from Stephens with his first touch before hopping away from the debutant Kyle Walker-Peters and arrowing a thunderous left-foot drive into the top-right corner of the Southampton goal.
Vydra has had to settle for a bit-part role this season, playing second fiddle to Wood, Ashley Barnes and Jay Rodriguez, but this was a timely reminder of his instincts.
“When you’re chance comes, take it,” Dyche said. “That is the rules of the game.”