Aston Villa came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Burnley on Thursday evening as the visitors crawled out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Burnley transposed the compact, obdurate rearguard from their narrow defeat against Tottenham last weekend but weren’t met with anywhere near the same onslaught at the home of a ponderous Aston Villa.
While the meeting between these clubs 12 days ago produced the notable mismatch of Villa’s front-two against Burnley’s centre-back pair, the advantage swung the other way as the visiting Clarets swamped the lone striker Ollie Watkins with three dedicated defenders. Both sides desperately struggled to create anything from open play.
On the cusp of half-time, while defending a set piece in his own box, Emiliano Buendia stuck out his boot and Maxwel Cornet went tumbling over. Ashley Barnes, goalless since February 2021, stepped up and crisply converted the spot kick to give Burnley a half-time lead.
Within three minutes of the restart, Buendia completed his personal redemption. At the end of a dart into the box which began with the Argentine hunched over in the centre circle, Buendia thumped a volley through Pope’s outstretched arm.
The equaliser injected some much-needed zip and urgency into Villa’s game but the laborious hosts struggled to live up to Steven Gerrard’s pre-game prediction: “I do believe we will create chances.”
With Philippe Coutinho joining Buendia in midfield, fellow substitute Bertrand Traore forced a superb stop from Pope as Villa threw bodies and balls into the final third.
Yet, it was Burnley – despite withdrawing forwards for defenders – that almost struck the telling blow. Just five minutes were left as Connor Roberts bundled the ball towards goal before teeing up Wout Weghorst on the rebound. With a largely empty net gaping, the sub saw his effort blocked off the line by the flailing boot of Tyrone Mings.
Matthew Lowton, another late arrival, lasted barely five minutes before a rash tackle on Calum Chambers earned him a stoppage-time red card. The ten-man Clarets managed to eke out the closing stages, going into the final day of the season knowing survival is guaranteed if they match (or better) the result of 18th-placed Leeds United.
GK: Emiliano Martinez – 4/10 – Given precious little to do but not entirely convincing with a dropping high ball.
RB: Matty Cash – 5/10 – Cantered up the pitch, Cash provided Villa’s width down the right.
CB: Calum Chambers – 6/10 – Given licence to push forward while in possession.
CB: Tyrone Mings – 8/10 – Dealt well with the robust approach of Ashley Barnes and made a tackle worthy of a goal.
LB: Lucas Digne – 4/10 – Wayward with the more adventurous passes he tried to play.
CM: John McGinn – 7/10 – Not shy in letting rip from outside the box, McGinn also provided the perfectly weighted pass for Buendia to fire level.
CM: Douglas Luiz – 5/10 – Dropping right into defence to help build from the back but lacked any punch in his passing.
CM: Jacob Ramsey – 6/10 – The Villa Players’ Player of the season provided lashings of thrust with the ball at his feet.
RF: Emiliano Buendia – 5/10 – In less than five minutes of game time, Buendia went from villain to saviour.
LF: Carney Chukwuemeka – 4/10 – Skirted around the fringes of the contest before departing inside an hour.
ST: Ollie Watkins – 5/10 – Perennially outnumbered, every avenue turned into a cul-de-sac for the hard-running forward.
SUB: Bertrand Traore (57′ for Chukwuemeka) – 5/10 – Eager to carve out an opening, everything was a little too rushed.
SUB: Philippe Coutinho (71′ for Ramsey) – 5/10 – Dropping very deep to help orchestrate Villa’s attacks.
SUB: Danny Ings (78′ for Watkins) – 6/10 – Almost hurt his former side with his first touch but dragged a crisp effort wide.
GK: Nick Pope – 7/10 – Kept the game goalless while Burnley eased their way into the contest. Made up for a surprisingly weak-wristed attempt against Buendia’s equaliser with a stunning denial late on.
RWB: Connor Roberts – 5/10 – Scarcely ventured out of his own half but closed off the space for Digne to scamper into going the other way.
CB: Nathan Collins – 7/10 – Kept a cool head even when the pressure was raised by their hosts.
CB: James Tarkowski – 7/10 – On a swift return from injury, the stand-in skipper marshalled his backline commandingly.
CB: Kevin Long – 6/10 – Looked sluggish when lured into a foot race against Watkins, Long mercifully had that eventuality limited.
LWB: Charlie Taylor – 5/10 – Locked in an engaging but one-sided battle with Cash as Taylor endured a mixed evening chiefly defending the Villa full-back.
CM: Dwight McNeil – 6/10 – Shifting between midfield and the frontline, McNeil’s duties chiefly revolved around his work off the ball in a disciplined display.
CM: Josh Brownhill – 5/10 – Forced a sharp stop from Martinez with a firmly struck effort from range.
CM: Jack Cork – 4/10 – Struggled to exert any significant impact on proceedings with the ball so rarely at his feet.
ST: Ashley Barnes – 6/10 – Sharpened his elbows ahead of kick-off, Barnes managed to find the corner from the spot despite losing his footing.
ST: Maxwel Cornet – 6/10 – Sniffing around for any scraps, Cornet did very well to win the penalty which broke the deadlock.
SUB: Wout Weghorst (71′ for Barnes) – 4/10 – Squandered a glorious sight of goal.
SUB: Aaron Lennon (79′ for McNeil) – N/A
SUB: Matthew Lowton (85′ for Cornet) – 0/10 – The last thing Burnley needed was to see out the closing stages with a man less.