Despite being disappointed with our performance, Rafa Benitez believes that last night was an even game and one that we could have ‘won or lost it’ at Burnley – but concedes that the big difference between the two sides was their ability to capitalise on our costly mistake.
In fairness, we didn’t carry nearly enough threat going forward, so it was never a game we really looked like winning, however the goal we conceded was out of character and a costly error in a game that looked destined to end in a stalemate.
A defensive lapse saw Burnley’s Jeff Hendrick left unmarked at the back post, giving Burnley a lead we were unable to peg back.
In his post-match interview, Rafa refused to single out players to blame for Burnley’s goal, but admitted that it was a frustrating mistake and the difference in a game that was generally very ‘even’:
“We made a mistake and after it we were out of position.
“I don’t like to name anyone but it was obvious we didn’t do what we had to do. On the ball we had to be a bit better and more precise. We still had chances and some attempts.
“But in these kind of games you have to be sure to be strong enough in defence. You have to be better in attack.
“You can win games like this but they have to make a mistake, they didn’t and took advantage of it.
“It was an even game, in that we could have won it or lost it. It was perhaps going to come down to one mistake and that’s exactly what happened.
“They were pushing and had some chances but not enough. These kind of games, when you have control you have to be sure when you create something more you don’t give the ball away the way we did.”
As Rafa says, we weren’t precise enough on the ball, with too many attacks fizzling out or failing to even get going in the first place.
A lack of quality or cutting edge was evident in the final third and whilst Benitez’s suggestion that we could have won seems quite far fetched, it’s fair to say Burnley’s stand in goalkeeper Nick Pope did actually make a few decent saves, parrying goal-bound shots from Shelvey, Perez and Hayden, with Joselu and Manquillo also going close with late efforts.
It’s the third 1-0 defeat of our season on the road and must be seen as another lesson learned, with work clearly needing to be done in the attacking third to make us capable of creating and then converting when openings come our way.
No need to panic, but it was a sobering defeat that does highlight our lack of cutting edge in the final third, emphasising the importance of us keeping it tight at the back given our apparent inability to chase games from a losing position.