Luca Toni’s inclusion on the team sheet gave Clarets fans an idea of what’s to come this season.
The World Cup winner, who hit the bar and had a goal disallowed for the Italians in the 2006 final victory over France, travelled to Turf Moor with Serie A side Hellas Verona as Sean Dyche’s men culminated their pre-season preparations in terms of fixtures.
And now the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres - winners with Spain in South Africa in 2010 - will follow 37-year-old Toni’s lead when they arrive in East Lancashire on August 18th with Chelsea.
That’s the calibre and magnitude of opponent the Clarets can now expect on a weekly basis as the club once again hosts Premier League football. But Dyche and the squad appear ready for the challenge after seeing off ‘Gialloblu’ in confident fashion.
Once again the hosts were organised, compact, made the opposition work to find a pass and, similarly to the Celta Vigo clash midweek, conveyed the guile, character and purpose to respond immediately after falling behind.
The visitors almost opened the scoring early on when Rafael Marques Pinto manouvred his body to fire a half-volley goalwards, but an awkward deflection off Scott Arfield took the ball away from Tom Heaton and inches wide of the far post. From Emil Hallfredsson’s resulting corner, Toni showed his expertise to snatch a yard ahead of Michael Duff to stab wide of the near post.
After Lukas Jutkiewicz wriggled in-between Ivan Martic and Alejandro Damian Gonzalez to scoop an effort over the bar, Gomez Taleb attempted the acrobatics from another Hallfredsson set-piece but the effort floated comfortably wide.
Striker Danny Ings, returning from a slight thigh strain, almost found the net for the first time in pre-season when shaping a delicately executed shot around the upright after robbing Pinto of possession.
Dyche commented that the tempo was relatively slow in the opening half, but that owed to the meticulous approach of both teams. The Clarets suffocated and frustrated the away side centrally, with Verona usually opting to use Alessandro Agostini and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos as outlets, but they found success when Toni timed his run to perfection from Panagiotis Tachtsidis’s clever pass, killed the ball superbly, but was foiled by Ben Mee on the line after rounding Heaton.
Moments later, Verona broke down the right through Martic and the defender’s cross to the near post was met by the head of Gomez Taleb who forced a phenomenal reflex save from Heaton.
And as the half closed, Matt Taylor’s driven effort flashed past the far post following good build up play from Arfield and David Jones on the edge of the box.
The Clarets improved after the break, though they went 1-0 down within a minute of the restart. Toni used all his experience to hold off Mee before lifting a pass in to Christodoulopoulos who beat Heaton to the ball and headed home.
However, Burnley’s response was immediate. Kieran Trippier and Ings combined spectacularly down the right and the latter pulled the ball back for Taylor who finished beautifully with the outside of his boot.
Toni tested Heaton with a half-volley on the edge of the box as Verona looked to restore their advantage before the Italian went in to referee Lee Mason’s book when kicking out at Duff - a reaction that had been brewing for the majority of the afternoon in an intriguing battle.
From that point the Clarets took control, with their transitions becoming more fluent and punishing while the combinations of play grew more convincing and crisp. Taylor almost scored a second when Arfield and Ings worked the ball well inside the area but Andrade fell to his left to palm the midfielder’s attempt to safety.
But just after the hour the home side took the lead. The ball was worked patiently to Mee on the left - as the Clarets looked to force Verona’s backline out of position - and the full back’s centre fell perfectly for Jutkiewicz who powered a header in to the corner to make it six goals in as many appearances.
At That point, Dyche replaced the goalscorer with Marvin Sordell while Ross Wallace was introduced at the expense of Arfield.
Ings had been bright throughout, showing great desire to impact on the clash, and it took a fine save from Andrade to keep out the striker’s stunning volley. Ings tried again soon after when gliding past the Verona rearguard but was denied a carbon copy of last year’s strike at Derby when finding the legs of Andrade.
Michael Kightly was given some game time when replacing Taylor with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining before fellow substitute Wallace rounded the game off in the 82nd minute. The winger picked his spot impeccably from a free-kick from 25 yards, finding the top corner after Ings was upended.
Goalkeeper Gollini Pierluigi denied Sordell after the striker raced behind Verona’s defence with time running out, but Mason’s whistle signalled another impressive and worthwhile workout for the Clarets.