Burnley 1, Barnsley 0
(Emirates FA Cup, third round)
Burnley had gone 64 games without being awarded a penalty – but then along came two against Barnsley at Turf Moor.
The first was rescinded when referee Simon Hooper resorted to VAR, which revealed that Stefan Defour had been marginally offside when providing the pass which led to Matej Vydra being fouled.
But substitute Chris Wood slammed home the second – in the second minute of stoppage time – to dash Barnsley’s hopes of a giant-killing act and put the Premiership side fortuitously through to the fourth round.
As Cameron McGeehan had a goal ruled out for offside shortly after the first spot-kick, it could be argued that the Reds were unfortunate not to have been rewarded with a replay at Oakwell, where they have a such an impressive record.
However, although they had more possession than the side two divisions above them, they failed to produce a single shot on target. And you cannot win matches with that kind of output.
Mind you, Burnley had only two – and one of them was the match-winning penalty – so maybe a draw would, indeed, have been a fairer reflection of the Reds’ performance against a side showing eight changes from their last Premiership starting eleven.
In truth it was a mediocre match – certainly not one that would pop up in any ‘my top-ten cup-ties collection’ – but Daniel Stendel’s men performed well and they will be disappointed not to have retained an interest in the competition, having dominated periods in the game, only to be repelled by a stout Burnley defence.
It was Barnsley’s first game without midfield powerhouse Brad Potts, who was transferred to Championship side Preston North End on Thursday, but they still have plenty of back-up in that area, provided on this occasion by Ryan Hedges. The only other change from the eleven that started the goalless draw at Luton on Boxing Day was Mike Bahre in place of Kenny Dougall, who was not fit enough to play two matches in such a short period of time after a lengthy injury lay-off.
The Reds had the better of the early exchanges, with Bahre being denied by a debatable offside decision when bearing down on goal, and Mamadou Thiam seeing a goalbound shot deflected for a corner, but then, in the 21st minute, right out of the blue, Burnley were awarded a penalty.
Vydra went down when challenged by Dimitri Cavare and had started his spot-kick run-up when referee Hooper, still listening to his assistant through his ear-piece, blew his whistle just as the striker was about to shoot. The official had apparently been informed by his assistant that VAR had shown that Stefan Defour, who had supplied the pass leading up to the penalty award, was offside in the build-up.
It was a farcical situation and if VAR is not to be the Very Aggravating Resource it was in this instance it requires a good deal of improvement in its operation, particularly in respect of the time it takes to come up with a ruling and the lack of information available to supporters, who on this occasion were left wondering what on earth was going on.
Another offside decision, this time without help or hindrance from technology, robbed the Reds of a goal shortly afterwards, when Cameron McGeehan, having another good game in central midfield, had a header from a Ben Williams’ cross ruled out by the assistant’s flag.
Burnley briefly threatened just before the break when Adam Davies turned a Kevin Long header over the bar, but the Reds had been the better side to that point.
The home side emerged for the second half in a more positive frame of mind and almost immediately Charlie Taylor created a great chance for Dwight McNeil to give them the lead, but the latter’s header went wide.
Just after the hour mark Barnsley’s top scorer Kieffer Moore, having missed the last three matches through illness, was thrown into the fray as substitute for Hedges as the Reds showed their determination to bring an end to the stalemate, but they were kept in check until the last five minutes when two free-kicks on the edge of the penalty area provided the opportunities they had been seeking.
However, Alex Mowatt was inches wide with his and Cauley Woodrow fired over the bar.
Then, in the second minute of stoppage time, came the second penalty award – and this time there was no escape for the Reds. Liam Lindsay sent Vydra tumbling with an impetuous challenge on the left-hand side of the box and substitute Chris Wood fired home from the spot.
In the long term it may no be such a bad thing that the Reds, having made their exit from the cup competitions, can now focus solely on their promotion bid, but right now there can only be acute disappointment at the outcome of this particular VAR of the Roses.
Burnley: Pope; Tarkowski, Lonog, Gibson, Ward (Berg Gudmundsson, 59 mins), McNeil, Defour (Cork, 78 mins), Hendrick, Taylor, Vydra, Vokes (Wood, 74 mins).
Barnsley (4-4-1-1): Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, B Williams; Hedges (Moore, 63 mins), McGeehan, Mowatt, Thiam (Moncur, 77 mins); Bahre (Dougall, 83 mins); Woodrow,
Bookings: Long (Burnley); Williams (Barnsley).
Referee: Simon Hooper.