Football

Norwich's Premier League nightmare descends into tragic comedy in Burnley defeat


This fixture was supposed to be a dead rubber – nothing to see here and all that.

After two Norwich dismissals for violent conduct, more VAR controversy, an opening goal from an overhead kick, a comedic second and another shut-out for the Premier League’s golden glove frontrunner Nick Pope, it was fair to say this one didn’t go according to the script.

The top line is that Sean Dyche’s Clarets have maintained their impressive form, post-lockdown, and are making a late charge towards the places for Europa League qualification.

And those bare facts should not detract from a seven-match unbeaten run which will almost certainly cement Burnley’s place in the top ten. Given the competition, that is some achievement.

However, it was all overshadowed by yet more drama with VAR at its heart.

Norwich’s relegation was already confirmed

To give the incidents that later defined the game some early context, the heat rose a little midway through the first-half when Norwich defender Max Aarons was shoved over by Burnley defender James Tarkowski after he ran the ball out of play in front of the two benches.

That sparked a minor tussle and referee Kevin Friend pulled the two players together to issue a telling-off.

That was a sensible course of action and the official was initially not minded to act when Emiliano Buendia caught the head of Burnley midfielder Ashley Westwood with his elbow following another spat in front of the dug-outs moments later.

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Friend, told to take a look at the decision by colleague Lee Mason, walked over to have a look at the pitchside monitor. He studied it for five seconds and immediately pulled out the red card.

Emi Buendia walks off the pitch after being shown a red card by referee Kevin Friend

Westwood rubbed his head but showed no ill-effects of the undoubted petulance.

However, Farke –an even-tempered individual by Premier League managerial standards – was upset, pointing out the referee’s previous approach to Tarkowski which warranted no more than a rebuke.

Dyche took a look at the monitor and shook his own head. A lower-league defender who spent most of the 90s dodging elbows, he was probably wondering what the fuss was about.

Norwich weren’t happy with Friend’s decision

It was the last thing Norwich, relegated last week, needed. If the Canaries could feel hard done by over their first sending-off, however, they had no complaints over the second on the stroke of half-time.

Josip Drmic was contesting possession with Dwight McNeil – again, in front of the managers.

The ball ran away from the Swiss striker towards Erik Pieters.

In his desperation to win it back, he cleaned out the left-back. It was high, late, reckless. It ticked all the boxes. The Dutchman was lucky not to suffer serious injury.

Drmic could have no complaints

Pieters was still limping upfield when Burnley belted the ball forward from the resultant free-kick.

It was half-cleared but returned into the area by Johann Gudmundsson from the right. Chris

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Wood met it on the full, acrobatically – albeit with his shin – and it dribbled its way past Tim Krul.

Norwich worked overtime to keep themselves in touch. Krul saved impressively three times before centre-half Ben Godfrey, with no-one around him lamely tapped the ball past his own keeper with ten minutes left.

The result was the fifth match in succession the hosts had failed to score at home. That statistic was important for Burnley keeper Nick Pope.

He has now registered 15 shut-outs and is two ahead of his nearest rival, Liverpool’s Alisson Becker who has two to play.

Another milestone in a campaign that still has plenty of life in it.

For Norwich, however, the end can’t come soon enough.

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