Clarets fans saw the final nail driven into our relegation coffin on Sunday with Liverpool coming away with a 4-0 victory.
Despite the result, I don`t think this was by any means a poor performance by the Clarets. We held them in the first half and indeed had the luck been going our way could easily have been ahead. The lads were fighting for their lives and nobody could accuse them of not having the passion and drive to succeed in this match.
The Clarets still looked determined in the early stages of the second half and they seemed to be holding their own against a side battling to finish 4th in the table. It was so cruel therefore that the goal that broke the deadlock had to go Liverpool`s way with a flukey element of luck to boot.
With 52 minutes played Gerrard was involved with a neat one-two with Benayoun cutting inside past our defence to unleash a shot from 20 yards out. Jensen could probably have dealt with it had it not been for the fact that the ball took a huge deflection off Leon Cort wrong footing the keeper on its way into the corner of the net. If that was a fluke, seven minutes later Gerrard confirmed his class by scoring a stunning score to make it 2-0 Liverpool. This time Gerrard pounced on to a knockdown by Aquilani and let rip with a first-time right-footed curling shot from 25-yards out which flew into the left-hand corner of Jensen’s goal. The goal was so spectacular even some of the Clarets fans were applauding it despite realising our dreams of survival now looked to be coming to an end.
You have to be proud of the Clarets for what followed. They could so easily have buckled and thrown in the towel but no they battled on and could so many times have reduced the arrears. The afternoon and frustration for the Clarets was perhaps best summed up when a left footed effort from Fletcher twelve yards out flew past Reina but hit the foot of the post.
Despite Burnley continuing to press, it was perhaps inevitable that Liverpool would extend their lead and so they did in the 74th minute. This time Aquilani opened up the Burnley defence and there was Maxi to shoot across across Jensen into the far corner of the net from 12-yards out. I suppose there was no getting away from the fact that Liverpool`s class was now beginning to tell but then their clinical finishing and direct attacking would be expected considering the depth of quality in the squad and their multi-million pound players at their disposal. We did our best that`s all we can say and we were certainly not a disgrace in this match. It has been a cruel season in many ways and perhaps that was summed up by Liverpool`s fourth goal with virtually the last kick of the game deep into injury time. Babel in acres of space stormed forward beating the offside trap after latching onto a pass from Lucas with only Jensen to beat. He beat him just to add some further salt into our wounds and give Liverpool a totally flattering 4-0 victory. Clarets fans at the end of this game were appreciative about the effort the lads had put into this game and applauded them off the pitch.
In a way perhaps it was a relief to finally know our fate after weeks of expecting the worst despite still hanging in there but that was it the dream was finally over. It had taken 33 years to return to the top flight and we were back down after just one season.
I won`t dwell on why I think we were unable to survive, you probably all know my thoughts on that matter but there are many fans who will be soul-searching at the moment and saying to themselves ‘if only`. I can perhaps only describe my thoughts on how I feel emotionally at the moment and we are all probably reacting to the drop in different ways.
I have to say first of all, I haven`t really enjoyed this adventure at all; I can`t help how I feel and I would be a fool to lie on that score. I know some are seeking to say they wouldn`t have missed the opportunity for the world and have enjoyed it immensely and I only wish I could be amongst you but I can`t. I could probably count on one hand the matches I have truly enjoyed this season. It might sound odd this but I don`t like losing, especially on this scale and I think being in the Premier League you are continually reminded of the hopelessness of it all for clubs like ours. The tonkings add insult to injury, the double defeat to Blackburn hurts like hell and it`s all been too frustrating and embarrassing on too many occasions for me.
The trouble is being in the Premier League is still where I want to be, it`s just that next time I want to be able to do it better and be dealt a better hand. Nobody gives a fig really about clubs in the Championship and I want to see my club playing on the best stage in the football world despite all its faults. I will miss the prestige of being in the top flight and I will miss the continual attention you get in the media for being in it! I looked at my shirt after the Liverpool game and saw those Premier League badges on the sleeves. It almost brought me to tears realising they wouldn`t be there on next season`s shirt. It had taken me 33 years to feel really proud again and I just so wish we could have found that something extra from somewhere to have stayed up. Going down stronger, if indeed we truly are, means sod all to me and in fact most relegated clubs over the years could probably have said that, the problem being most are still in the Championship or worse. Nobody should underestimate the task of getting out of this league, something that seems to get harder season after season.
I hope one bloke is thinking about our situation at the moment and if he truly, really ever loved this club, I just hope Owen Coyle does have some regrets for what he did to this proud club and its fans and feels some remorse. I just doubt it!
Well that`s it then, time to move on and look forward. Let`s just hope in the close season, we can build a squad that truly can compete strongly and one that can return to the top flight at its first attempt. Having tasted what the Premier League can mean, the Championship will never have the same appeal for me even if it means we win more games and I just hope that once more in my lifetime we can return to the top flight and this time become established. Blackburn, Bolton and Wigan with their rich sugar daddies? Stuff em!
The Clarets Team Sheet
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Cork, Paterson, Nugent, Fletcher
Subs: Weaver, Caldwell, Bikey, Eagles, Blake, Thompson, Rodriguez
The Full Match Report
A late change in the referee saw Phil Dowd take charge of this game instead of the scheduled Martin Atkinson. The Stoke-on-Trent official got the match underway in front of a packed house on a day where the weather couldn`t seem to decide whether it wanted to be sunny or rainy.
The Clarets looked initially nervous and who could blame them with so much at stake and it was Liverpool who came closest to scoring in the opening few minutes when a Babel shot flew just wide of target.
That seemed to kick-start the Clarets into action and they started to take the game to Rafa Benitez`s men so much so you would not have believed there was such a gulf in the League table and in depth of quality.
Stephen Fletcher was causing the Liverpool defence all sorts of problems and picking up some niggling tackles and fouls for his effort. Paterson and Nugent playing out on the flanks were also linking well with Fletcher and on 26 minutes Pato whipped over a cross for Fletcher to narrowly head just over the bar. If any team looked like taking the lead at this point remarkably it was the Clarets and they looked to have Liverpool worried.
You could not relax though with Liverpool`s classy players around and Gerrard in particular was a handful often charging forward from deep positions and giving himself goal-scoring opportunities. He tested Jensen on the half-hour mark with a shot after turning well but thankfully the big Dane was equal to it and easily mopped up the danger.
Our defence looked a lot sharper than late with Fox and Duff in particular looking strong and solid and they were linking well with the midfield to set up our own chances. Fletcher had a shot charged down by Daniel Ayala but that elusive goal we needed so much just wouldn`t come. Our best chance came with just two minutes of the first half remaining. Mears got in a superb cross to find Cork charging into the penalty area. He made contact with his head but the direction could have been better and Reina was able to dive to his right and save.
That was it for the first half and at 0-0 the Clarets were holding their own and with a bit of luck might well have gone in ahead.
Laws made no changes for the start of the second half and the Clarets started as they had finished looking confident and determined to get the lead. They soon had the Liverpool defence panicking following a dangerous looking cross from the impressive Jack Cork. Reina was unable to collect and the ball just missed the elbow of Aggar with Fletcher about to pounce. He just couldn`t get enough purchase on the ball though and the danger passed for Liverpool.
The Clarets were then awarded a direct free kick with Mears from distance forcing a save from Reina but soon after disaster struck for Burnley against the run of play.
With 52 minutes gone Gerrard pounced and was given too much time on the ball to tee up a shot from just outside the box. Letting rip the shot completely fooled Jensen after taking a wicked deflection off Cort. In many ways that goal summed up our luck this season but the Clarets hardly had time to moan before we found ourselves 2-0 down just seven minutes later and this time the goal was such a work of genius from Gerrard that even Clarets fans were applauding him.
Yet again there was perhaps an element of luck when Alberto Aquilani attempted to control a pass from Rodriguez but appeared to slip confusing our defence with the ball falling to Gerrard. He let rip with a breathtaking curling shot from 25 yards out that sailed into the net just inside the post.
Most Clarets fans felt instinctively that was it, our dream was over and we would be plying our trade in the Championship next season. We still had over 30 minutes to play though and the fear was we would now fold and concede a panful. The Burnley players to their credit though battled on and were still determined not to throw in the towel just yet. A shot by Fox on goal found Paterson in the way who tried to guide the ball into the net without success and then Nugent went on a charge through the defence to get in a low shot that tested Reina.
Just over the hour mark on came Robbie Blake to freshen up proceedings replacing Alexander and we continued to press for a goal to reduce the arrears and hopefully set up a late stage recovery. Fletcher in particular was continuing to give the Liverpool defence a major headache forcing Reina to make yet another save. Our luck continued to desert us a few minutes later with Fletcher once more in the thick of things. This time his left footed shot had Reina beaten but the ball stubbornly hit the foot of the post and at that point all Clarets fans realised this simply wasn`t going to be our day.
Now it was just a matter of rubbing salt in our wounds and that came in typical fashion on the break with the Clarets throwing everybody forward and being caught out. This time Aquilani on 74 minutes picked out Maxi 12 yards out from goal to get in a right-footed shot that flew across Jensen into the far corner of the net. 3-0 Liverpool and the Premier League dream was finally over. The Clarets to their credit continued to try and get something from the game but to no avail despite the best efforts of substitute Steven Thompson who came close with a header that went just wide.
Now it was time to add insult to injury and give Liverpool a totally flattering 4-0 score-line. In the dying seconds of four minutes of injury time and with virtually the last kick of the match, Babel found himself in acres of space on a one-to-one with Jensen after beating the offside trap and that was it 4-0 and the Clarets were down but at least were not disgraced. They had put up a fine show and things had they gone our way could have been different. At the end of the day though all Clarets fans have to admit that our team was simply not good enough to survive in the top flight this season but certainly had Coyle stayed who knows what would have happened. There is no doubt his leaving knocked the stuffing out of the squad. The belief they had in themselves seemed to evaporate with his departure and Laws was given in effect a poison chalice from which he couldn`t seem to recover.
Oh well onward and upwards, BURNLEY WILL BE BACK!
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander (Blake 63), Elliott, Cork, Paterson (Eagles 71), Nugent (Thompson 77), Fletcher
Subs not used: Weaver, Caldwell, Bikey, Rodriguez
Booked: Yellow Cards for Duff and Cork
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger (Lucas 78), Carragher, Ayala, Aquilani, Gerrard (Pacheco 82), Maxi, Mascherano, Kuyt (Benayoun 48), Babel
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Degen, El Zhar
Goals: Gerrard (52, 59 mins) Maxi (74 mins) Babel (90+4 mins)
Booked: Yellow Card for Gerrard
Possession: 49% Burnley, 51% Liverpool (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)
Burnley Are Back…Down!
Clarets fans saw the final nail driven into our relegation coffin on Sunday with Liverpool coming away with a 4-0 victory.