Burnley restored their three-point lead in the Championship by deservedly beating a resolute Birmingham City.
Anass Zaroury and Connor Roberts, who have both played in the World Cup, scored first-half goals, completed by a third stoppage time from Nathan Tella, as Vincent Kompany’s in-form Clarets secured their 14th victory in 24 league games this season to overtake second-placed Sheffield United again.
Against the second nastiest defense in the second tier, the hosts went on a flier when Moroccan Zaroury scored the league’s fastest goal of the season – after just 49 seconds.
After helping to score the opening goal, Wales’ Roberts then got in on the scoring act himself when he finished the first half as she had started a minute before the break with another good move worked on the right.
Tella then completed it all as he raced to score to complete the Blues’ heaviest defeat of the season – as home fans enjoyed seeing three of their side’s goals in the current fifth game at Turf Moor for the move 11 points ahead of third-placed Blackburn.
As sensational as Zaroury’s return to the EFL was, there was an element of fortune in Burnley’s opener.
A foul on Krystian Bielik upfield in the Blues’ first attack went unpunished, Burnley broke, Manuel Benson slipped a fine pass inside the full-back, Roberts drilled in a low cross and Zaroury is entered just past Maxime Collin to head home a superb right-footed finish.
After a month out of the World Cup, during which he only featured in the third-place play-off against Belgium, Zaroury’s goal was his fourth in their last four home games.
As for Roberts, his goal contribution only came after he was released to play when his pre-Christmas handball red card against Middlesbrough was overthrown.
But he took advantage of his reprieve.
He had already created another opening – from which Benson powered a shot just over the top – when he netted a neat brace with Josh Brownhill, collected a fine return pass over the top and ran to wave the net.
Burnley had other chances to condemn the Blues to an even heavier defeat, but goalkeeper John Ruddy denied an instinctive reflex shot from former West Bromwich Albion striker Jay Rodriguez and Josh Cullen fired wide with a wide chance, before Tella rounded it off three minutes into added time. .
- 5Harwood Bellis
- 29MaatsenReplaced bytaylorto 72′minutes
- 24CullenBooked at 35 mins
- 17ManualReplaced bytellato 62′minutes
- 8brown hill
- 19ZarouryReplaced byGudmundsonto 82′minutes
- 9RodriguezReplaced byBarnesto 82′minutes
- 4RobertReplaced bybellinghamto 79′minutes
- 2HakeReplaced byLekoto 87′minutes
- 6MejbriBooked at 35 minsReplaced byJutkiewiczto 66′minutes
- 8DeeneyBooked at 54 mins
- 18ChongBooked at 36 minsReplaced byjamesto 66′minutes
- Darren England
Match ends, Burnley 3, Birmingham City 0.
Second Half ends, Burnley 3, Birmingham City 0.
Purpose! Burnley 3, Birmingham City 0. Nathan Tella (Burnley) scores with a right footed shot. Assisted by Charlie Taylor with a through ball following a break-in.
Failed attempt. Connor Roberts (Burnley) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Josh Cullen (Burnley) gets a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Troy Deeney (Birmingham City).
Failed attempt. Jóhann Gudmundsson (Burnley) left footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high from a direct free kick.
Nathan Tella (Burnley) gets a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Juninho Bacuna (Birmingham City).
Foul by Josh Brownhill (Burnley).
Jonathan Leko (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Replacement, Birmingham City. Jonathan Leko replaces Maxime Colin.
Foul by Connor Roberts (Burnley).
Auston Trusty (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Jóhann Gudmundsson (Burnley) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is blocked. Assisted by Ashley Barnes.
Foul by Jack Cork (Burnley).
Jordan James (Birmingham City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Connor Roberts (Burnley).
Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Replacement, Burnley. Ashley Barnes replaces Jay Rodriguez.