After manufacturing just one away win throughout the entire 2016-17 campaign, not many people gave Sean Dyche’s Burnley a chance when they visited the home of the champions on Saturday. Yet a combination of taking advantage of poor home defending and a lack of discipline ensured the Clarets formulated a perfect start to the new season.
Champions did themselves no favours
Defensive lynchpin and Premier League stalwart John Terry parted ways with Chelsea over the summer. With the natural born leader leaving a gap to be filled in both defence and leadership of the squad, Gary Cahill appeared to be a perfect fit as a replacement. Yet the central defender had a moment of madness within the first 15 minutes, lunging needlessly at Steven Defour to earn his marching orders.
The experienced Cesc Fabregas followed suit in the second half when he produced a reckless challenge to leave Sam Vokes on the deck and reduce the hosts to nine men. The Spaniard might be even more disappointed in how he earned his first caution, sarcastically applauding a free-kick awarded against him to leave the midfielder walking a tightrope.
Chelsea fail to defend with any confidence after Cahill departure
The loss of Cahill and his ability to lead and organise the defence was evident for the rest of the contest, particularly before half-time. David Luiz took over the role of chief organiser but made a costly error to allow Sam Vokes to open the scoring. The Brazilian turned his back as Vokes beat him to a cross and turned the ball past Thibaut Courtois. The goalkeeper will also be disappointed that he could not get a stronger hand to the tame effort.
The usually dependable N’golo Kante was then at fault just minutes later. The central midfielder went into a challenge with Stephen Ward with no conviction as the full-back cushioned a long ball down in the box. His finish was sheer class but he should not have been allowed to get the strike away from such a tight angle.
It was then the turn of new signing Antonio Rudiger to make an error. He lost Vokes from another cross and a lack of communication between himself and Luiz allowed the Welshman to steal a free header and nod Burnley 3-0 ahead before the break.
Embed from Getty Images
Movement of Morata makes a difference
Whilst Vokes was creating space for himself all around the Chelsea box, the Blues’ lone striker, Michy Batshuayi made life easy for the Burnley back four with limited movement. The introduction of Alvaro Morata immediately made a difference, simply by making himself busy in and around the away penalty box.
It was his vision that allowed him to spin away from James Tarkowski to open his account for the hosts. After that movement behind the defence created room, it was a step in front of the back four that created Chelsea’s second. Morata made space to head a long ball over the Burnley back line and into the feet of David Luiz who had chanced his arm at making a run out of defence.
Yet it was ultimately just a consolation for the champions as they failed to steal an equaliser with nine men. Antonio Conte has plenty to work on with his troops but Burnley looked strong, particularly when it came to attacking crosses.