Chelsea’s title defence got off to a stuttering start as they lost 3-2 to Burnley at Stamford Bridge. For the first 14 minutes Chelsea were looking strong, comfortable in possession and the team most likely to score. However, a straight red card shown to Gary Cahill flipped the game on its head.
Burnley took the lead when a scrappy Sam Vokes volley managed to wheedle its way past Courtois. Vokes had already had a goal disallowed about five minutes earlier due to offside- testament of Burnley’s growing dominance in the game.
Tempers were rising in the Chelsea camp with Azpiluceta being booked for dissent and a host of his teammates crowding referee Craig Pawson as they felt decisions were being unfairly awarded against them.
It was not long before Burnley were two goals to the good. Just as it looked like Chelsea were adapting to playing with 10 men and getting some fluidity back into their game Stephen Ward fired off a cracking diagonal shot which Courtois had no chance of stopping.
There was almost an instant response but the usually reliable hitter-of-the-ball David Luiz could only fire his shot into the proverbial Row Z. Chelsea were patiently knocking the ball around trying to find an opening but could not break through the Burnley defence. Willian and Kante were looking the most lively but Sean Dyche’s men would not budge.
Things went from bad to worse for Chelsea just before half-time when a neat Sam Vokes header sent Burnley 3-0 up. For a team that was so defensively resolute last season (33 goals conceded and 16 clean sheets) Chelsea looked perpetually shaky at set pieces. Admittedly Conte was playing with a rather makeshift defence after Cahill’s sending off, consisting of, Luiz, Rudiger, Azpiluceta, Alonso and Christensen. However, this is little excuse for the defending Premier League champions.
The second half got off to a slightly better start for the blues with Alonso having a decent effort just tipped over the bar by Tom Heaton. Chelsea had a few penalty appeals but Pawson waved them all away.
Just before the hour mark Conte introduced record signing Alvaro Morata to the fray. There was an instant lift to Chelsea’s play. The man he replaced, Batshuayi, had struggled to make an impact all afternoon. 20 minutes later Conte was rewarded for the switch when Morata headed in a cross from Willian.
Minutes later Chelsea had a goal disallowed when Morata tapped in a ball from an offside position. Burnley at this stage were more than happy to knock the ball around and try and keep possession. Dyche’s men had performed admirably and were adamant that they wouldn’t capitulate this late on in the game.
On the 80th minute Cesc Fabregas was shown a second yellow card for a strong challenge and Cheslea were reduced to 9 men. This didn’t stop them piling the pressure on Burnley and they were rewarded in the 87th minute when David Luiz scored off a flicked-on Morata header.
Burnley very almost restored a two goal advantage when a Robbie Brady free kick hit the inside of the post. As the game reached its conclusion Chelsea were throwing absolutely everything they had forward but it was not meant to be as the game finished with Burnley edging out as 3-2 winners.
There were already rumours that Antonio Conte is displeased with Chelsea’s transfer business this summer and the lack of depth and experience on the bench and subsequently on the pitch will only give more credibility to Conte’s grievances.
For Sean Dyche however this is a great statement of intent from his team. Many were tipping Burnley to be relegated this season but after today’s performance who’s to say they can’t belie the pundits and finish a bit further up the table?
Written by Dom Clarke.