Mike Jackson suffered his first defeat in caretaker charge of Burnley as a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa deepened the Clarets’ relegation worries.
Steven Gerrard did both Everton and Leeds a big favour as his side ripped Burnley apart – Emi Buendia made the most of only his second start since February with a goal and an assist, Danny Ings haunted his former employers with a fourth goal in four against them, and Ollie Watkins applied the killer blow.
Substitute Maxwel Cornet thumped home a stoppage-time consolation goal for Burnley but the damage had already been done – perhaps doubly so with key defender James Tarkowski hobbling off in the second half.
Jackson had taken an unlikely 10 points from a possible 12 since replacing the sacked Sean Dyche last month but a fourth straight victory – which would have matched Dyche’s tally all season – proved well beyond his side as Villa, who sent Norwich down last weekend, were clinical in front of goal.
Defeat means Burnley could end the weekend back in the bottom three if Leeds and Everton can pick up points from tough fixtures away to Arsenal and Leicester respectively on Sunday.
In a week where it emerged relegation would mean Burnley’s owners must immediately repay a “significant” proportion of a £65million loan taken out during their takeover in December 2020, this was a result to concentrate minds at Turf Moor after a superb few weeks under Jackson.
With Philippe Coutinho having made it six games without a goal or an assist last weekend, Gerrard handed Buendia a start as one of four changes to his side, and the Argentinian needed a little over half an hour to register one of each.
Ings had already threatened once, curling wide after cutting in from the left, but he made no mistake when Buendia’s pass split Burnley’s centre-halves with seven minutes gone to allow him a simple finish.
Burnley spirits were not immediately dampened and they looked bright going forward in search of a response, but they struggled to carve out clear chances with Ashley Barnes, thrust into a first start since September due to injuries to Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez, off the pace.
All the while Villa were a constant threat as they exposed gaps at the back.
A mix-up between Charlie Taylor and Nick Pope almost allowed Buendia sight of an open goal but he scuffed his shot from outside the box.
Wout Weghorst twice went close for the hosts, but it was Villa who doubled their lead in the 31st minute.
Burnley failed to deal with a deep cross, allowing Watkins and Ings to work the ball for Lucas Digne. He pulled the ball back to the penalty spot where Buendia side-footed the ball home with the help of a deflection off Tarkowski.
Frustration grew around Turf Moor. As fans were screaming for a foul on Weghorst, McNeil nicked the ball away and ran towards goal, only to hit a tame effort straight at Martinez from close range – making it 43 shots without a goal this season for the winger.
Things got worse after the break when Tarkowski hobbled off to be replaced by Kevin Long, and their defence was left exposed as Watkins killed them off with only seven minutes of the second half gone.
John McGinn had space to send in a cross and Watkins was afforded the freedom of the penalty area to head past the stranded Pope, sealing a win which lifts Villa to 11th.
Though Cornet rounded Martinez to lash home a consolation strike at the death, this was an ominous defeat given the Clarets must go to Villa Park in 12 days’ time for one of the three matches left in which they can secure their Premier League future.