When your luck’s out it’s out. Relegation-haunted Fulham must have thought they were in with a chance when they got off to a dream start at Turf Moor with a sensational Andre Schurrle strike after only two minutes, only for two own goals in quick succession to put Burnley in control before Claudio Ranieri even had a chance to speak to his players about protecting their lead.
Burnley were therefore able to climb the table without finding the net or even having a shot on target, though that does not necessarily mean Fulham were victims of any cruel misfortune.
Sean Dyche’s team reacted positively to going behind at such an early stage and spent most of the first half pressurising the Fulham goal – it was only the identity of the scorers that was harsh on a side looking for their first away win of the season.
A home player might have claimed a goal when Chris Wood beat Sergio Rico to a Phil Bardsley cross but slapped his header against an upright.
Fulham were not clearing their lines particularly well, and when Dwight McNeil’s cross from the left ran through to Jeff Hendrick on the right, the midfielder’s driven ball across goal was diverted over the line by Joe Bryan’s knee.
That only encouraged Burnley to keep going forward, and though the second own goal had some comedy value when Denis Odoi seemed to appear from nowhere to head Hendrick’s cross past a startled Rico, it was the home side’s passing and movement that led to Hendrick finding space in the area after starting the move 30 yards out.
“You need a bit of luck now and again,” Dyche said. “I was really pleased with the calmness we showed after going a goal down, we’ve won our last two games by coming from behind and that feels like a big step forward.”
Burnley were well on top at that point and Fulham were looking at familiar failings, which had not been the case in the second minute when André Schürrle opened the scoring with a goal of the highest class.
There appeared no particular danger when Odoi launched a long ball into the Burnley box from 10 yards behind the halfway line, but Schürrle’s immaculate first touch created the scoring opportunity and left Ben Mee a mere spectator.
Extending his right leg to cushion the ball as it fell from the sky, Schürrle had it under control in an instant, letting it bounce once before whacking a dipping shot over and beyond Tom Heaton.
It was quite a start, though one the travelling supporters at the cricket ground end probably suspected might not last. At least Fulham revived somewhat in the second half, enjoying more of the game and almost finding an equaliser when James Tarkowski had to clear Luciano Vietto’s shot off the line.
Tom Cairney made a difference when he came on and Burnley had to put in their share of last-ditch defending, with Heaton producing a diving save to keep out a Vietto effort from the edge of the area.
At times Fulham overstretched themselves, sending too many men forward and inviting their opponents to strike on the counter, though Burnley are too one-paced to be effective on the break.
What they are good at once again, after appearing to lose the habit in the first half of the season, is dogged defending. Mee and Tarkowski safely saw out the game, earning Burnley a third successive league win and leaving Fulham to ponder what might have been.
“It’s football, what can you do?” Ranieri said. “I was quite pleased with the performance but not the result. We deserved a draw but ended up with two own goals and a shot cleared off the line. It was very strange.”
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Heaton, Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Wood (Vokes 87), Barnes. Subs (not used): Hart, Lowton, Gibson, Long, Defour, Vydra.
GOALS: Bryan (o.g. 20), Odoi (o.g. 23).
FULHAM (5-2-3): Rico; Christie, Bryan (Cairney 61), Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream; Chambers, Seri; Schurrle (Kebano 78), R. Sessegnon (Vietto 45), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, S. Sessegnon, Cisse, Ayite.
BOOKED: Chambers, Christie.
GOAL: Schurrle (2).
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire).