Burnley kicked off 2019 in the best way possible as they beat relegation rivals Huddersfield 2-1 at the John Smith's Stadium.
Both teams ended the year in the relegation zone and were looking for a much needed three points to lift spirits at each club. But it was Burnley who left finished the game the happier side, as Sean Dyche's men made it two wins from two in the league to inflict more misery on David Wagner's Huddersfield.
Things were tight and scrappy from the off, but Huddersfield took the lead on the half hour mark when Steve Mounie finally got his first goal of the season. A deep cross from Isaac Mbenza found the forward creeping in at the far post behind Ben Mee - Clarets goalkeeper Tom Heaton having no chance from Mounie's resulting header.
The lead did not long last though as Chris Wood grabbed an equaliser for Burnley just before half-time. The Kiwi notched his 100th goal in English football in the process, finishing at the near post following a low cross from Dwight McNeil.
Things quickly got worse for the Terriers when Christopher Schindler pulled down McNeil on the edge of the box and Mike Dean had no choice but to produce a second yellow. Alex Pritchard was then sacrificed as Erik Durm came on to shore up the defence.
Huddersfield put up a valiant fight in the second half and Burnley failed to really create any chances of note right up until the 74th minute when a sweeping move saw Ashley Westwood play in namesake Barnes, who finished coolly to put his side ahead.
Things were levelled late on, in terms of players on the field that is, when a firm tackle from Robbie Brady was rightly punished with a straight red card. But ultimately, the Terriers did not have enough in the tank to pull the scores level.
Key Talking Point
The Terriers shot themselves in the foot with another lacklustre home display. Things had started well, particularly when Mounie rose to finally get off the mark for the season. But the fun lasted just a few minutes as Florent Hadergjonaj's failed clearance allowed Wood to nip in score Burnley's equaliser, before Schlinder's needless red card.
They battled hard in the second half and went toe-to-toe with Burnley for most of the game but eventually gave way to the opposition pressure. You can't help but wonder what could have been had they avoided such basic mistakes in the opening half.
Starting XI: Lossl (7); Hadergjonaj (5), Jorgensen (6), Schindler (3), Kongolo (6); Kachunga (6), Hogg (6), Pritchard (6), Billing (6), Mbenza (6); Mounie (7)
Substitutes: Durm (6) Depoitre (6)
Star Man - Steve Mounie
At last, a Huddersfield striker has managed to get himself on the scoresheet this season. The ball in was great by Mbenza but it was excellently executed header from a player who'd have no reason to finish with such confidence.
Despite being down to 10 men for most of the game, Huddersfield did give their fans the occasional attack to get excited about. Mounie was often the man involved as his side looked to take the game to Burnley.
📸 Steve Mounié's opener for #htafc was cancelled out by Chris Wood several minutes later. David Wagner's side has also been reduced to 10-men in the first-half with Christopher Schindler collecting a second yellow card.#HUDBUR (CL) pic.twitter.com/nOwNvPH1Gt— Huddersfield Town (@htafcdotcom) January 2, 2019
Worst Player - Christopher Schindler
The defender was sent off for two first half yellows - looking back, he'll have no complaints. He was clumsy twice going into challenges on Wood and McNeil, not coming close to winning the ball on either occasion.
The German looked way off the pace in the first half, and did his team no favours with his ill discipline. Huddersfield fans will look back at the dismissal as a needless turning point in the game.
Key Talking Point
Things have been fairly uninspired for Burnley all season long. However, in Dwight McNeil they may have a young talent capable of igniting their squad in 2019. The 19-year-old was lively all game long and even provided the assist for Chris Wood's equaliser.
Stationed out on the left flank, he's a real throwback to the old school winger - not dissimilar to Ryan Giggs. Instead of cutting in to shoot, he's far more content putting the ball onto his stronger left foot, finding the space on the byline and whipping the ball in.
When you've got the likes of Barnes, Wood and Sam Vokes in the box, that sort of play will always be appreciated.
Starting XI: Heaton (6); Bardsley (6), Tarkowski (6), Mee (6), Taylor (6); Gudmundsson (6), Westwood (6), Cork (7), McNeil (7); Wood (8), Barnes (7)
Substitutes: Lowton (6), Brady (4), Hendrick (N/A)
Star Man - Chris Wood
Playing alongside Ashley Barnes, Wood made himself a threat all night long. He ran the channels, won the headers, drew the fouls (Schindler's first yellow), and brought his teammates into the game all night long.
His hard work was rewarded when he netted his 100th goal in English football with Burnley's first half equaliser. He also was involved when Barnes put Burnley ahead.
Worst Player - Robbie Brady
The Irishman came on when the scores were level to help his side grab a win. He didn't contribute to the goal and was generally sloppy on the ball. But to be fair, everything was going relatively well for Brady until he seemed to lose his head late on.
Desperate to stop a Huddersfield counter, he threw himself into a heavy tackle and picked up a deserved red card. His rashness made the finish that much more difficult for Burnley - even though they ultimately held on.
Next up, Huddersfield face a potentially tricky visit away to Bristol City in the third round of the FA Cup this weekend as they look to get their first win of the year.
Burnley, meanwhile, will look to continue their recent patch of good for as they host Barnsley in the same domestic competition.