Burnley kept up their unlikely pursuit of the Premier League’s top six with a victory over Watford, whose manager Marco Silva bemoaned a game-changing red card.
The battle of wits – and the clash of styles – between Silva and Sean Dyche, who are building two of the division’s more appealing CVs, shifted in the Englishman’s favour as soon as Marvin Zeegelaar was sent off in the 39th minute.
The Dutch full-back was more out of control than out for blood but his reckless challenge on Steven Defour invited referee Lee Probert to make a decision which titled the scales decisively in the Clarets’ favour.
Scott Arfield stepped forward on a rare start to provide the only goal of the game, giving the hosts the half-time lead and, ultimately, an eighth win of the season.
“For me it is clear, it is harsh, harsh, harsh. Not a red card for me,” said the Portuguese. “I think the result is not fair, the decision, the referee as well. Until the red card the game is balanced. After comes the decision (and) it has a big, big influence. I think it is not fair in that moment.”
Silva was visibly annoyed by Probert’s decision-making during the game, despite Burnley having further efforts from Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes ruled out for less-than-clear offsides.
When Everton were weighing up a replacement for Ronald Koeman it is understood they favoured Silva over Dyche. He is the more debonair of the two men, has continental experience and may yet have a higher ceiling in the game.
For now, though, his Hornets side sit six points behind Dyche’s side and his trademark cool gave way to moments of barely contained rage at the officials.
Having banked the win, Dyche was the happier of the two coaches but he too was also drawn to the officials’ performance.
“It is not easy to win games in the Premier League and we had a couple that were chalked off. They were delicate decisions,”said Dyche.
Asked if Burnley had the right to feel aggrieved by the slender scoreline, he was non-committal. “Not if they are right, (but) I can’t work it out,” he said.
Ayoze Perez’s late own goal cost Newcastle a precious draw as Leicester ruined the Magpies’ 125th birthday celebrations. Substitute Perez thumped the ball into his own net four minutes from time in his efforts to prevent Shinji Okazaki from converting Jamie Vardy’s cross, just as it looked as though Dwight Gayle’s equaliser had clinched just a second Premier League point in seven games.
In the process, he handed Leicester, who had bounced back from Joselu’s early opener with goals from Riyad Mahrez and Demarai Gray, a third successive league win in front of a crowd of 52,117.
The majority of them left fearing the worst if the reinforcements manager Rafael Benitez wants do not arrive in January, regardless of whether or not a takeover is completed, after seeing Huddersfield, Swansea and West Ham all win earlier in the day to leave their club just two points clear of the relegation zone.
Newcastle needed to start positively, and they did just that as Jacob Murphy picked out Gayle down the left and he pulled the ball back for Joselu to thump in his first goal since October 1 with only five minutes played. However, Leicester responded well and drew level on 20 minutes when, after Mikel Merino had squandered possession on halfway, Mahrez was allowed to advance towards goal before unleashing a thunderbolt of a drive which flew into the net, despite Karl Darlow getting his fingertips to it.
The Foxes threatened repeatedly on the counter and Newcastle were fortunate to still be level at the break. The home side’s negligence on the ball continued to cost them in the second, and Leicester went ahead for the first time on the hour when Marc Albrighton’s fine first-time lay-off from Mahrez’s raking pass allowed Gray to control and fire past Darlow with the help of a deflection off defender Florian Lejeune.
The Foxes went for the kill, but the hosts equalised with 17 minutes remaining when, amid a goalmouth scramble, Gayle found time to control and dispatch a shot which flew past Kasper Schmeichel off Harry Maguire’s outstretched leg. But the Magpies were caught on the break at the death when Perez could only turn the ball into his own net as he tried to deny Okazaki.