Burnley (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Middlesbrough goalkeeper Victor Valdes unwittingly took on the role of Father Christmas as his error gifted Premier League relegation rivals Burnley a 1-0 win on Boxing Day.
An attritional Turf Moor encounter looked to be drifting towards a goalless draw when, in the 80th minute, Andre Gray took aim with a volley that Valdes allowed to creep beneath him and into the net.
The former Barcelona man’s blunder gave Burnley only a second win in seven league games, propelling Sean Dyche’s side above their opponents into 14th place, six points clear of the bottom three.
Without an away win in eight league games, Aitor Karanka’s Boro slipped one place to 15th, but they remain four points above the drop zone.
Boro welcomed back Cristhian Stuani after a foot injury and he squandered an early chance, shooting off-target from the edge of the box after Antonio Barragan’s pass caught Burnley’s defenders napping.
But as a scrappy first half wore on, so Burnley began to assert themselves.
Boro goalkeeper Valdes had to turn a 20-yard shot from Ashley Barnes behind and later produced an unconvincing save to repel George Boyd’s swerving 25-yard free-kick.
In between, the hosts felt they should have had a penalty when Dean Marney’s shot struck the raised elbow of visiting defender Calum Chambers, only for referee Craig Pawson to shake his head.
Boro upped their game after the break, but Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton had little trouble fielding Gaston Ramirez’s free-kick and Stuani’s header.
In the absence of meaningful goal-mouth action, the game became increasingly physical.
Burnley’s fans bayed for a red card after Ramirez went in firmly on Barnes, but Pawson awarded only a free-kick.
The home supporters were out of their seats again in the 80th minute, but this time they were cheering.
Heaton’s long kick was flicked on by substitute Sam Vokes to Gray, whose well-struck shot somehow squirmed beneath Valdes and rolled over the line.
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