Football is back. And, judging from the way we played while the game was still in doubt, good football is back. Granted, Chelsea went down 1-0 thanks to completely botching a defensive corner, and granted we did absolutely nothing in the second half, and granted we looked calamitously inept whenever the ball was above shoulder height, but those are worries for another day. This day is for enjoying.
But we should start from the beginning. The beginning of this match featured the ball bouncing around like crazy and Burnley's Lucas Jutkiewicz smash a long-range snapshot well wide. Thibaut Courtois' first Chelsea goal kick occurred a grand total of 15 seconds into the match. It was abundantly clear that the hosts' strategy would be to hoof the ball and hope they got some bounces in their favour.
And 14 minutes in they got a fairly major bounce. Chelsea really only had themselves to blame, however -- John Terry didn't follow out Nemanja Matic's clearance from a corner, leaving Matty Taylor free to race to the byline and cross once Burnley had knocked the ball back in. Everyone was onside, the defence was scrambling back, and that left Scott Arfield free at the edge of the box. One lovely volley later and Burnley were 1-0 up.
By this point, the Blues had already shown some measure of attacking threat. Andre Schurrle, fed by the excellent Cesc Fabregas, had seen a shot from just outside the box deflected just wide for a corner kick early on; the team knew more of that would be required. And so they provided it.
Perhaps Chelsea were actually helped by Burnley going ahead so early. Intent on defending their lead, the hosts abandoned their frenetic pressing game and actually let the Blues have the ball higher up the pitch. This proved to be a fatal error -- Fabregas ripped them open with a backheel for Branislav Ivanovic, whose cross was deflected by a lunging Clarets defender, bounced off Tom Heaton's right-hand post and fell to Diego Costa, lurking with intent in the area of the box marked 'here be dragons' in the goalkeeping manuals.
The new signing didn't flinch, smashing his shot off Jason Shackell and in to make it 1-1.
It was an encouraging goal, but the job wasn't nearly done. Chelsea had travelled to Turf Moor to claim three points and get what will hopefully be a special season off on the right foot, and 1-1 after 20 minutes wasn't what anyone had in mind. The 21st minute brought far happier things.
Consider, if you like, Eden Hazard in full flow. The ball glues itself to his feet, his low centre of balance and surprising strength allowing him to skip past opponents as though they aren't there, slipping through defensive blocks as though he's half-liquid. Eden Hazard did that.
After Hazard's scurrying run through the centre, the ball came right to Ivanovic. He met the pass with a clever dink to the unmarked Fabregas, who decided to add a rather larger dollop of clever to the play with a one-touch chip over the defence to Andre Schurrle, who stabbed past Heaton to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead.
It should have been three shortly thereafter when Benjamin Mee decided that his response to the Schurrle goal would be to commit metaphorical suicide. A weak backpass in the vague direction of the goalkeeper was seized upon by Costa, whose touch took him around Heaton before being brought down by an outstretched arm. A penalty would have been the appropriate response. Instead, Michael Oliver gave the striker a yellow card for simulation.
No matter. Ivanovic was on hand to grab the third when Burnley forgot to mark him on a corner kick -- not an error that teams typically get away with -- and Chelsea went into halftime both with a commanding lead and what seemed like the ability to cut Burnley apart at will. Unfortunately for spectacle's sake, they decided to forgo the second part of that equation, coming out after the break with the intent of killing off the match. Which they did.
Courtois had a decent stop from Arfield, but the only really significant event of the second half was the re-appearance of one Didier Drogba, whose previous competitive game for Chelsea was on May 19th, 2012. Here, he was under far less pressure, but he still seemed to revel in the occasion, on one point shrugging off a defender to take and volley (wide) a long clearance from Courtois. It's good to have him back, even if he isn't what he once was.
And it's good to have Chelsea back too. This was a performance of quality, good enough to secure the points before the interval and disciplined enough to conserve energy afterwards. The 3-1 lead leaves us top of the table after week one, and although that means almost nothing, I'd rather be there than anywhere else.