Danny Drinkwater’s first competitive start in almost a year and a half ended in grave disappointment, as Burnley crashed to a shock 3-1 home defeat to Sunderland, who may be a big name but are currently only in the third division.
The Clarets had taken the early lead, and missed two empty nets before a mistake / bad luck from the Chelsea loanee gifted an equalizer to the visitors. Another Burnley unfortunate bounce / error, this time with goalkeeper Joe Hart central, gave Sunderland the lead — the first goal in a quickfire double early in the second half — and sent them into the third round.
Drinkwater’s unfortunate tackle did change the course of the game, but it would be unfair to place the blame wholly on him, as Burnley head coach Sean Dyche explained afterwards.
“That’s a really experienced team we put out there, I should have enough faith in that to get through 95 minutes. That’s probably the head-scratcher because that’s probably the most experienced team — when I have changed the team — I’ve put out in my nearly seven years here. When you look on paper that’s a strong outfit. We should be taking care of ourselves better than that.
“In the first half I thought we were in complete control in every area other than the mistake. For 35 out of 45 minutes in the second half we just didn’t turn up.”
The match marked not only Drinkwater’s debut in his half-season loan, but his first competitive action since starting back-to-back away games for Conte’s Chelsea in late February and early March 2018 — the 2-1 loss to Manchester United and the 1-0 loss to Manchester City. The only non-friendly action he had seen since was a 30-minute cameo in last season’s Community Shield.
But despite the loss, the rust, and the headline-making mistake, Dyche was appreciative of the 29-year-old’s efforts.
“I’m not really going to question Drinky, we know he needs football, he knows he needs football as well. He hasn’t played a lot, he’s getting used to the players around him so that’s a different thing.
“He stuck at it, he’s got through the 90 minutes which is really important. I’m not really judging him in amongst our pack, that’s for sure, not just on one performance. He’s tried to be diligent, tried to be honest. It’s not just down to his mistake, we weren’t quite sorted out to stop it, even with a mistake.”
-Sean Dyche; source: FourFourTwo
With Burnley crashing out so early from the League Cup, but going well enough early in the Premier League (four points from the first three games), opportunities for Drinkwater (and others on the fringes of the first-team) will be harder to come by. But hopefully his quality and dedication will earn him a few more chances to show what he can (still) do.