Burnley restored their three-point advantage at the top of the Championship with a dominating victory against managerless Queens Park Rangers.
Sheffield United was gone level on points yesterday, but that result was never in doubt after first-half goals from Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Ian Maatsen.
Nathan Tella added a third after the break as Vincent Kompany’s men recorded an eighth victory in their last 10 league games.
QPR could have had a penalty in the opening seconds but were well beaten in the end in their first game since manager Michael Beale took the job at Rangers.
This fifth defeat in six matches places them ninth in the standings.
Burnley shows real conviction
After a month off for the World Cup, the question was whether Burnley could regain the form and momentum they had displayed before and the answer was emphatic.
They played with real conviction and quickly found themselves in their stride, dominating possession and playing with confidence all over the pitch and on that evidence it’s easy to see why they are favorites to win the Championship.
However, they were lucky not to concede a penalty after 20 seconds as QPR winger George Thomas appeared to be brought down by goalkeeper Aro Muric.
There was also a hint of luck in the free kick awarded to them for the opening goal. That’s where the luck ended, as Gudmundsson tossed him over the wall, leaving Seny Dieng rooted to the spot.
Chris Willock had a chance to equalize but Clarets’ superiority was accentuated by the second goal in first-half stoppage time.
Right-back Vitinho’s fine shot was saved well by Dieng, but no one reacted quicker than Maatsen as the left-back smartly pushed the rebound back into the box.
QPR caretaker manager Paul Hall made a double change at half-time and saw captain Sam Field make a smart save from Muric as the Hoops improved.
But the league leaders secured the points as Tella capitalized on a confusion between former Burnley defender Jimmy Dunne and Dieng as he rounded the goalkeeper and scored impressively from a tight angle for his seventh league goal of the season.
QPR must act quickly
No team in the top four divisions has scored more than Burnley’s 43 league goals, despite it being the seventh time they have scored at least three in a game.
Perhaps the most worrying thing for the rest of the division is that Kompany’s men seem to be getting stronger.
As for QPR, they were top of the league on October 21 when Beale was linked with a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers. He refused but, since then, their form has plummeted with one point now out of a possible 18.
Beale left to join Rangers, the club where he was Steven Gerrard’s assistant, on November 28, and the Loftus Road hierarchy must act quickly if this season is not to slip away.