Considering Sean Dyche’s penchant for lookalikes he will have enjoyed Matt Lowton’s Cafu impression as the right-back completed a move he started to score his first goal in more than five years as Burnley dismantled a dismal Crystal Palace.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Jay Rodriguez set Burnley up for victory in the first 10 minutes, before Lowton’s goal of the month contender just after the break added gloss to a comfortable outing in south London against a Crystal Palace side lacking composure and competence at both ends.
Without Wilfried Zaha available, Roy Hodgson tried to counterbalance the lost attacking threat by starting three strikers; Ayew operated on the right-hand side of midfield with Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke up front but it was the defence which had more pressing matters.
Palace had won two of the past 19 in which Zaha was absent, something that may have added pressure to a nervous-looking defence as Scott Dann and Patrick van Aanholt failed to deal with a deep Erik Pieters cross from the left, allowing Gudmundsson to pick up the loose ball, before being allowed time in the area to choose his spot from eight yards out with less than five minutes on the clock.
It was an immediate confidence-booster for the visitors, who had not won in their last five matches, as Gudmundsson’s mishit cross landed at the feet of Ashley Barnes on the edge of the six-yard box but his shot was turned behind. Burnley did not have to wait long for their lead to be doubled as Dwight McNeil’s inswinging corner from the right was nodded in by Rodriguez who barely got off the ground to head the ball home from just a few yards out, leaving the Palace defence pointing fingers for a second time with less than 10 minutes on the clock. Only West Brom have conceded more goals in the Premier League than Palace this season and their ineptitude masterclass was further proof why.
Burnley’s newly found sense of arrogance almost cost them when Ashley Westwood lost the ball to Luka Milivojevic in his own half, as Benteke collected the errant ball, only to prove his shot-shy nature, by drilling his effort from the edge of the box straight at Nick Pope. The Belgian earned himself another chance in the 25th minute when he made the most of confusion between the Burnley centre-backs to collect a bouncing ball, allowing him to drive beyond James Tarkowski, only to see his shot from an acute angle be repelled by Pope’s feet.
It seemed surprising that Burnley were the Premier League’s lowest scorers coming into the game, having netted just 14 times in 22 matches, as every set-piece resulted in further shambles in the Palace box, with Vicente Guaita unable to take command, leaving those in front of him with a nervous disposition whenever a cross was flung in.
The goalkeeper was immune from criticism for the third as Lowton drove forward from the halfway with the ball, bouncing off a desireless Van Aanholt, then playing a one-two with Barnes, who chipped the ball over the Palace defence for the Burnley full-back to set himself and smash a first-time volley across Guaita and into the corner, much to the surprise of his teammates.
There was one negative for Burnley as captain Ben Mee was stretchered off after a clash with Jordan Ayew on the edge of his own box left him motionless. Mee was attended to on the turf for a number of minutes by medical staff before being taken off wearing a head and neck brace but later made it back to the dressing room on foot.
Victory provided a perfect start to a crucial week for Burnley, leaving them 11 points clear of the relegation zone, an important milestone going into matches against strugglers Fulham and West Brom in the next seven days.