After Millwall and Luton played to a draw earlier in the day, the door opened for Burnley to punch its ticket back to the Premier League. Vincent Kompany’s side, leading the league over Sheffield United, had an eight-point gap over the Blades entering a game against Middlesbrough. All Burnley had to do was win, and it clinched automatic promotion this season.
That is exactly what Burnley did. A 2-1 win at Riverside Stadium on Friday night confirms Burnley, who suffered relegation a season ago, is immediately back to the Premier League. The side did it with seven games still to play in the Championship.
The task of winning at Middlesbrough was no easy task, though. Michael Carrick’s side woke up on Friday in third, and were on a tear at home. Boro was unbeaten in its last 10 home games. Conceding just five times in that span, it was the visitors who scored first.
Visitors dominate in first 45
Josh Brownhill let fly from 20 yards. But, like a tip in hockey, Ashley Barnes stuck a foot out and deflected it by a helpless Zack Steffen. Middlesbrough players did raise their hands to question any potential offside decision. No call came. However, replays after the fact showed Barnes was just about offside. Yet, there is no VAR used in the Championship.
By halftime, Burnley dominated possession, preventing Middlesbrough from any shots on goal. This is not necessarily a surprise, though. Vincent Kompany’s side has the best defensive record in the Championship. Plus, the side’s possession in this campaign is top of the league at almost 64% possession per game. In the first half against Middlesbrough, the Clarets held the ball for 70% of the 45 minutes.
Burnley secure promotion back to Premier League
Immediately after halftime, though, Middlesbrough found an equalizer. Following a Josh Cullen foul on Boro’s Cameron Archer, Chuba Akpom did what Chuba Akpom does. The Championship’s leading scorer this season tucked home past Arijanet Muric.
After 65 minutes, the game may have been level, but it was Burnley to regain the lead. Nathan Tella picked up the ball on the right side. The Englishman dribbled inside and cast a ball on the floor into the middle. Waiting in the middle was right back Connor Roberts. Roberts, who picked up a red card in the reverse fixture and is a former Middlesbrough player for one league game, slid the ball beyond Steffen. The goal put Burnley back in a position to reach the Premier League.
Boro’s best chance did not come until five minutes into stoppage time. Akpom looked to add to his goal tally, and crucially find an equalizer, with a header inside the six-yard box. However, the ball glanced off his forehead and wide of Muric’s post.
Burnley is the first side from across the English pyramid this season to secure automatic promotion. Of course, the league title is not secure for the Clarets. Sheffield United could still usurp that if the wheels come off of Kompany’s side. However, Burnley accomplished the goal of promotion that each Championship club set out.
The Premier League-bound club does still have a say in the rest of the league. The next game on the schedule is a contest at home to Sheffield United, which has an eight point gap on third-place Luton Town. The Blades also have a game in hand, and could soon clinch automatic promotion themselves.
PHOTO: IMAGO / PA Images
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