Burnley beat Boro to seal Premier League promotion
Vincent Kompany’s Burnley secured promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt with victory over fourth-placed Middlesbrough.
The Clarets, unbeaten in the league since November, took an early lead when Ashley Barnes redirected Josh Brownhill’s low shot into the back of the net.
The home side equalised just after half-time when Championship top scorer Chuba Akpom scored from the spot after Josh Cullen felled Cameron Archer in the penalty area.
Connor Roberts steered in the winner from Nathan Tella’s near-post cross and Kompany’s men saw out the rest of the game in comfort to spark wild celebrations on the pitch and among their travelling fans.
Victory for the east Lancashire side sent them 19 points clear of third-placed Luton, who have six games left to play.
Kompany left Belgian top-flight side Anderlecht to take over at Turf Moor after they were relegated on the final day of last season, and the 36-year-old former Manchester City defender has enjoyed a near-flawless first campaign.
Despite a massive turnaround of players in the summer following the end of their six-year spell in the Premier League they have become the first team in the English Football League to secure promotion in 2022-23, having been top of the table since 25 October.
The Lancashire side now need just 11 points from their final seven games to secure the title, while 13 will see them become the first Championship team to break the 100-point barrier since Leicester City in 2013-14.
The Clarets host second-placed Sheffield United, the last team to beat them in a league game 19 matches ago, on Monday.
For fourth-placed Middlesbrough this was a damaging second successive defeat and they are nine points adrift of the Blades, who have also played a game fewer.
Record-breaking Clarets a fine vintage
Burnley have now won promotion to the Premier League in each of their past three seasons in the second tier.
However, this has looked very different to their previous successes under long-serving boss Sean Dyche, who, incidentally, was sacked on Good Friday last year.
From the first game of the season, when they saw off Huddersfield in the Championship curtain-raiser back in July, it was apparent that they would be playing a far more possession-based game to the one employed by Dyche.
They suffered defeat at Watford in the third game of the campaign and had just six points from their first five matches, but the Kompany did not waiver and a 16-match unbeaten run sent them to the top of the league.
A heavy 5-2 defeat at Sheffield United did not derail them, as they secured a 3-0 win over east Lancashire rivals Blackburn in their next game.
They picked up where they had left off after the break for the World Cup and they equalled a club record with a 10-game winning run that saw them open up a huge gap on the chasing pack.
No side has won promotion to the Premier League with seven games left since the second tier rebranded in 2004 – and Burnley will now look to secure the title, break the 100-point barrier and become the first team to go unbeaten at home in a Championship season since Newcastle United in 2009-10.
A parting gift from veteran Barnes
Given the amount of change that Kompany has overseen since taking charge it was somewhat ironic that it was a combination of two players who were there when he took over that gave them the lead.
Brownhill’s low strike from the edge of the area might have been going in anyway but 33-year-old Barnes, who has now won promotion to the Premier League three times with the club, stuck out a foot to redirect it and leave Boro keeper Zack Steffen with no chance.
Barnes said after the game that he would be leaving the Clarets in the summer after nine years, saying it was “the end of an era” and it was “time for him to move on”.
Tella missed a gilt-edged chance to double their lead before the break when he fired wide after being played in behind the home defence.
Akpom’s 27th goal of the season brought Michael Carrick’s men back into it and they enjoyed a spell of dominance thereafter.
However, they could not create another real chance of note and were opened up by a pass into the inside right channel that Tella latched on to, before putting it on a plate for former Boro loanee Roberts to score.
Akpom had a chance in the last minute to delay the Burnley celebrations for a few days at least but he headed wide at the back post.
There was a sour note when Clarets midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson was struck by a coin thrown from the Middlesbrough end during the celebrations of the league leaders’ second goal.
Successive defeats for the Teessiders means they will almost certainly have to go through the play-offs if they are to join Burnley in the Premier League next season.
Middlesbrough head coach Michael Carrick told BBC Radio Tees:
“Credit to them firstly, I have to say congratulations. I’ve been in the changing room and seen the players and the staff because I think they deserve a congratulations for what they’ve achieved.
“It hurts us to see them celebrating in our stadium but we totally respect the position that they are in and they deserve that.
“In terms of the game, hugely proud of the lads. I thought there was a real high level game in terms of intensity. I know there wasn’t loads of chances but I think that shows how good we both were and how far we’ve come really.
“The boys are bitterly disappointed but at the same time I think they’ve taken a lot from it.
“We’ve gained confidence, belief, we’re a better team now. We’ve lost two games on the bounce but for me it’s not a big deal because we’ll take a lot more from this game tonight than we’ll lose.”
Burnley boss Vincent Kompany told Sky Sports:
“It’s Easter and there’s seven games to go and we’re already celebrating. We didn’t expect it.
“We wanted to experience this at some point but quicker is better sometimes as well.
“There’s a couple of logical rules we all know, if you don’t have squad cohesion at the beginning then it takes time. There’s 46 games so you have the stress of games that help you improve quicker.
“It wasn’t easy. They’re celebrating like kids and that’s fun to see.”
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