It was all about timing for Arsenal here. After arriving at Turf Moor just 52 minutes before kick-off, after the team coach was stuck in traffic, they left it until the final seconds to secure a crucial, if barely deserved, victory.
Alexis Sanchez’s penalty two minutes into added time ensured a second successive contentious win at Burnley as Arsene Wenger clambered back into the Premier League’s top four.
Last season it was Laurent Kolscienly’s controversial late winner, which appeared both offside and handball, and this time it was James Tarkowski’s push on Aaron Ramsey which dramatically swung the game towards Arsenal.
Though Tarkowski had both hands on the Arsenal midfielder, Ramsey did appear to exaggerate the contact, sparking anger among Burnley’s players.
Sanchez was never going to waste the opportunity and Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager, witnessed a point turning into the club’s first home defeat since August. Burnley have still not beaten Arsenal in the league for 43 years.
This had all the ingredients for a Wenger nightmare. Freezing conditions, with a nearby mountain encrusted with snow, and frequent rain raised the inevitable question over whether Arsenal would fancy it on a Sunday afternoon in Burnley.
Mesut Ozil was also sent home from the team hotel on Sunday morning due to illness while the coach arrived late. It all seemed as if the script was written for an Arsenal capitulation, until referee Lee Mason’s late intervention. Wenger could scarcely believe his good fortune.
“From outside it looked 100 per cent a penalty. I don’t know why he pushed him with two hands in the back,” said the Arsenal manager. “It looked a clear penalty, but I can understand why they were disappointed.
“He [Ramsey] didn’t throw himself on the ground, he wanted to go back and flick the ball. He was pushed in the back, had a problem in the neck from the push. He said it was a very strong push.
“After the win against Tottenham it was important to go away and win it and that’s what we did for the benefit of the team. It’s a very important win.
“We kept a clean sheet when Burnley were really up for it. When you play them you can understand why they have 22 points.”
Dyche, to his credit, did not complain about the decision but hinted darkly that perceived “smaller” clubs such as Burnley never benefit from such controversial calls.
Burnley have already taken points off Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool this season and for an hour it seemed as if they would add Wenger to the list. Those days of worrying about relegation seem a long time ago.
They started impressively here, without a long-ball in sight, with Petr Cech pushing Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s shot onto the post after 14 minutes. Gudmondsson, the Iceland attacker, was involved in all of Burnley’s threatening moments in a excellent first-half performance.
Arsenal did respond, with Nacho Monreal almost finding the corner from 20 yards, yet Burnley were always a threat. And Cech was required again, producing a diving save to keep out Robbie Brady’s free kick six minutes before half-time.
Arsenal could not find a way into the game and Sanchez was sometimes playing so deep trying to link play that he needed a snorkel. Burnley’s central defenders, Ben Mee and Tarkowski, will have given the watching England manager Gareth Southgate something to think about.
Wenger introduced Jack Wilshere 23 minutes from the end in a bid to break Burnley’s strangehold on the game and the England midfielder almost produced an impact. With Burnley hesitant at the back for once, Wilshere took aim and his deflected shot arced wide with Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope flat-footed.
But the game was turned on its head in injury time when Tarkowski, who had been excellent, bundled over Ramsey. It appeared soft – the locals certainly thought so – and Sanchez completed the ultimate smash and grab raid. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.
Dyche said: “There is a lot of me inside that is raging a lot. I thought it was unlikely it wouldn’t get given, you can draw your own conclusions from that.
“It probably is a penalty but it was never not going to be given. You lay your hands on someone, he goes down, they are tough calls. You have to be 100 per cent, which i assume the referee is.
“It’s a tough job for refs, it’s not going to change, there were some frustrations with some of the moments.
“But I’ve got absolutely no complaints about the performance. There are signs of us continuing to move forward and we can’t be flat about this.
Culled from Telegraph.