Manuel Benson came off the bench to score a stunning goal that earned Burnley a 1-0 win over local rivals Blackburn and clinched the Sky Bet Championship title for Vincent Kompany’s Clarets.
Having been second-best for much of the Lancashire derby at Ewood Park, it looked as though Burnley’s wait for the title would extend until the weekend at least, with 18 days having already passed since they were promoted back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
But eight minutes after his introduction, Benson cut in off the right flank and curled home a beauty to which Rovers had no response.
Despite second-placed Sheffield United having played two games fewer, the Blades trail the champions by 13 points, with a maximum of only 12 points still available.
Blackburn stay eighth in the table, outside the top six on goal difference alone, with just two games remaining.
How Burnley finally snared the title on their rivals’ patch
With a derby at such a crucial point in both teams’ seasons, the stakes were high – and the game was played at a frantic tempo throughout.
But while it was end-to-end in the first half, for much it, there were few chances of note. For the hosts, Ashley Barnes’ blatant simulation resulted in a telling-off from referee Tim Robinson, while Ameen Al-Dakhil timed his header wrong and glanced wide.
Rovers, meanwhile, mustered five shots and generated an Expected Goals figure of 0.24, but their attacking intent – and clear desire to not let their bitter rivals win the title on their patch – was often let down by poor final balls.
After the break, Blackburn continued to pile on the pressure. Tyrhys Dolan took advantage of some slack defending from Charlie Taylor, but then fired straight at Aro Muric, who then claimed a looping header from Dolan after Joe Rankin-Costello’s cross.
But shortly after the hour mark, that all changed. Benson collected the ball over on the right flank, held off his marker, chopped the ball onto his favored left foot and curled in a beauty that sent the away end berserk.
The vigor drained from Blackburn thereafter and they almost shipped a second in the dying embers, when Benson clipped the bar from a tight angle, with goalkeeper Aynsley Pears having come forward to attack a late corner. But by that point, the job was done and the celebrations could begin for the Clarets.
Player of the match – Manuel Benson
Blackburn’s Jon Dahl Tomasson:
“It’s disappointing when you lose a game. We played against the best side in the league and I think our players played a great performance. They didn’t have one shot on goal before the bit of magic.
“Of course, it’s hard to lose against your rivals in that way, but we are in two different places as clubs. Burnley were in the Premier League for the last six years and we are under construction. Before they scored, I thought we were dominating in the second half; we couldn’t find the quality in the last third, maybe.
“At the end of the day, there’s another opportunity on Monday against Luton, where we can win the game and then suddenly everything looks different.”
Burnley’s Vincent Kompany:
“I’m really happy. I’m so proud of the guys. For anyone who doesn’t know what happens in this part of the world, this is a massive game, so there couldn’t be a better, bigger game for us to win the league. It will be talked about for generations.
“I’m not going to call it stage-fright, but in the second half against QPR we froze, we stopped doing what we were doing because we were chasing the trophy and I thought today we didn’t do it.
“We stayed calm, we accepted that sometimes the momentum wasn’t going to go our way, but all the little bits in between – what has made us so consistent this season – we did well. There’s not a team in this league so far this season that has managed to keep us out of a game for 90 minutes and when we had our moment, we were lethal.”
Burnley return to action on Saturday, April 29, when they travel to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City at 3pm.
Blackburnmeanwhile, play next on Bank Holiday Monday, May 1, when they host Luton at Ewood Park at 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football.
10 IN 10 ON SKY SPORTS! – 10 live Championship games in 10 days
Saturday April 22
Preston 1-1 Blackburn
Sunday April 23
West Brom 1-2 Sunderland
Monday April 24
Luton 2-1 Middlesbrough
Tuesday April 25
Blackburn 0-1 Burnley
Wednesday April 26
Sheffield United v West Brom, 8pm – Live on Sky Sports Football & Sky Sports app
Thursday April 27
Rotherham v Cardiff, 8pm – Live on Sky Sports Soccer & Sky Sports app
Friday April 28
Blackpool v Millwall, 8pm – Live on Sky Sports Soccer & Sky Sports app
Saturday April 29
West Brom v Norwich, 5.30pm – Live on Sky Sports Soccer & Sky Sports app
Sunday April 30
Cardiff v Huddersfield, 12 p.m. – Live on Sky Sports Soccer & Sky Sports app
Monday May 1
Blackburn v Luton, 5.30pm – Live on Sky Sports Soccer & Sky Sports app