Stoke 0-1 Burnley: Visitors go clear at the top after battling victory
Burnley moved three points clear at the summit of the Sky Bet Championship table after they beat Stoke 1-0.
A second-half strike from Josh Cullen was all the travelling Clarets needed, who re-established their three-point lead over second-placed Sheffield United.
Stoke had their fair share of chances in an evenly fought contest but Cullen benefitted from a comedy of errors to notch the winner.
Burnley registered a fifth successive league victory for the first time since 2018 as they entered 2023 at the top of the tree.
Vincent Kompany’s outfit headed into the fixture on the back of eight wins from their last nine league outings but it was the Potters who started the brighter.
The usually reliable Arijanet Muric endured a shaky opening to the tie, with Tyrese Campbell nearly benefitting twice.
As the Kosovan goalkeeper misjudged a long ball, Campbell — who turned 23 on Wednesday — thought he had been gifted a late birthday present, but the angle was too tight.
Muric’s generosity did not end there with his wayward pass falling at the feet of the Stoke striker two minutes later but Campbell failed to get a clear sight at goal.
Naturally, the division’s pacesetters grew into the fixture and began to flex their attacking muscle against a side who have struggled for consistency this term.
And boss Kompany was incensed when Manuel Benson was felled by a napping Morgan Fox whilst referee Keith Stroud was unmoved.
Despite their contrast in league standings, it was the hosts who thought they had opened the scoring.
A lively Campbell had the ball in the back of the net, but only after referee Stroud had penalised Fox for a tangle with Connor Roberts.
Stoke again came close to forcing a breakthrough before the interval but Muric made amends for his earlier errors.
A goalmouth scramble ended with Fox in position inside the six-yard box but the Burnley stopper saved from point-blank range to preserve the deadlock.
After a slow start to the second half, Kompany turned to his bench for inspiration with the Clarets’ top scorer Jay Rodriguez and creative spark Anass Zaroury introduced.
And the duo made their presence known with the table-toppers snatching the advantage shortly after the hour mark in comedic circumstances.
As Benson’s deflected effort beat Jack Bonham, defender Harry Clarke’s goal-line clearance looped off his own goalkeeper before an alert Cullen prodded home.
Alex Neil tried to stir a comeback with Liam Delap, Tariqe Fosu and Josh Laurent brought on but their efforts were fruitless.
The Potters end a disappointing calendar year with only seven wins from 23 league games at home in 2022.
Meanwhile, Burnley enter the New Year in top spot having suffered only one loss in their last 22 Championship outings.