Arsene Wenger was quick to heap praise on Burnley last night, despite suffering disappointment at witnessing Owen Coyle's side hold Arsenal to a frustrating but entertaining draw at Turf Moor to damage severely their hopes of wresting the Premier League title away from Manchester United.
Arsenal arrived hoping to claim their third straight league victory and maintain the pressure on those above them. And they went about the task with relish, completely dominating the opening exchanges and threatening to run away with the game inside the opening 20 minutes.
Yet despite Cesc Fabregas putting the visitors ahead early on, a first-half penalty from Graham Alexander was enough to earn the hosts a priceless point, Wenger said: "I thought we made the most of our start and took the lead. We were 1-0 up and it looked easy, but it was then like a Cup game. We started to look jaded physically and lacked sharpness. "We dominated the second half without being decisive, but Burnley try to hit you on the counter-attack and they are very good at it. Burnley gave everything and deserved a point. They have the right attitude and commitment and are well suited to teams who make the game."
Wenger's evening was made even more disappointing by the fact that Fabregas limped off with a damaged hamstring before the interval and will miss Saturday evening's home game with struggling Hull City.
Wenger added: "He's injured, but for how long I don't know. He has hurt his hamstring and will not play on Saturday."
Fabregas could have had a hat-trick. His first effort was superbly blocked by Clarke Carlisle but there was little Burnley could do to stop the Spaniard from putting Arsenal ahead in the seventh minute with a clinical finish for his 10th goal of the season.
The midfield maestro was clean through again soon after but shot into the side netting, before Andrei Arshavin's low, left-footed drive came back of the post.
Burnley appeared to have shown their opponents too much respect but, in the words of their manager, Owen Coyle they "never know when they are beaten" and so it proved as the home side managed to get a foothold.
This owed much to the clumsy challenge of Thomas Vermaelen on Andre Bikey in the 27th minute, which left the referee, Mike Dean, with no choice but to award a penalty. The outcome was inevitable as Graham Alexander beat Manuel Almunia to level the scores with his 14th successful penalty from 14 since joining the club.
Brian Jensen produced a fine save to deny Arshavin while the giant Dane also did well to tip over Vermaelen's header from Samir Nasri's cross. At the opposite end Chris Eagles drifted beyond two defenders only to see his rasping drive come back off the post before Steven Fletcher wasted a great opening by blazing over the crossbar from close range.
Nevertheless, Coyle was still grateful for a point and he said: "This is a very, very big point for us. Both teams will feel they could have taken all three, but we started badly and for a spell Arsenal dominated us. But we managed to get into the game and took it to them.
"Both teams had chances. Brian made some good saves but we merited a point. We need to continue this now. Arsenal deserved our respect, but my lads gave me everything and if we can keep maintaining these levels of performance then we will continue to get points in this league and this will go a long way towards keeping us in it.
"There are two or three players in the Arsenal side who could play for any side in world football, but we stood toe-to-toe with them. We had some big performances and I'm delighted with them."
Burnley (4-1-4-1): Jensen; Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan; Alexander; Elliott, McDonald, Bikey (Gudjonsson, 70), Eagles (Blake 83); S Fletcher (Nugen, 83). Substitutes not used: Penny, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Thompson, Guerrero.
Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Silvestre; Walcott (Eduardo, 63), Diaby, Song, Nasri; Fabregas (Ramsey, 43); Arshavin. Substitutes not used: Vela, Wilshere, Fabianski, Eboue, Thomas.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Burnley Caldwell, Eagles.
Man of the match: Eagles
Attendance: 21,309.Reuse content