Tom Heaton was not the hero this match deserved. A bevy of splendid saves from the Burnley goalkeeper and captain denied Chelsea not the victory but of its rightful spoils. Sufficient goals were pillaged and a perfect start to the season maintained, but this performance, easily the club's most impressive under new manager Antonio Conte, deserved more.
Stunning saves were nearly as bountiful as Chelsea chances. Nearly.
How good was Heaton? Much of the highlight material for the 30-year-old's eventual retirement package will likely be sourced from Saturday's contest at Stamford Bridge. Without him, Burnley no doubt would have been toying with the idea of a new record league defeat (0-10 v. Aston Villa, 29 August 1925).
Chelsea's dark knight, Diego Costa, may have labored on this occasion, but for once a telling contribution from the striker was not required. In his stead, an array of players shone, in particular the seemingly reborn Eden Hazard, as the hosts recorded their third win in as many Premier League games.
Hazard opened the scoring inside 10 minutes, and could have - perhaps should have - finished with a glut. Willian added both balance and the second goal before Victor Moses capped a relentless display a minute before full time. The build to each goal was breathtaking, Chelsea in imperious control throughout. Burnley, unlike in last week's defeat of Liverpool, was overmatched from the off and outclassed at pretty much every turn.
This was more than just a win, too. Just how significant was the result?
- Secured successive home victories in the Premier League, something the side failed to accomplish all of last season.
- Four consecutive wins for the first time since December 2014.
- A first clean sheet at Stamford Bridge in 13 league matches (1-0 v. Norwich, 21 November 2015).
Yeah, significant. Of course, that adjective could also be used to describe the ongoing contributions of Hazard, who at times Saturday looked like the definitive talent of his generation. His ascent from last year's nightmarish malaise has been as phenomenal as it has been welcome. Here he was equal parts Robben and Duff, sensationalism be damned.
The opener, in all of its glory, was the stuff of Conte's dreams. Showing the kind of discipline the Italian craves, Chelsea retreated into its shape when not in possession, intent on allowing Burnley time to inflict pain upon itself, something the visitors did almost immediately. A needless giveaway at midfield allowed the hosts to break at pace through Hazard, who, after picking up the ball just inside the Burnley half, was allowed to drive toward goal under no resistance. A lovely run from Costa occupied a pair of defenders just long enough for the Belgian to cut inside before curling a crafted shot past Heaton at his far post.
Hazard continued to befuddle, benefitting greatly from the talent around him. N'Golo Kante was once again an anchor, while both Oscar and Willian shimmered at both ends of the pitch. Even Nemanja Matic, a player that for months has been affectionately described as done in these circles, enjoyed an all-action shift in the middle of the park.
Chances came. Heaton saved. Even when he didn't, the likes of Ben Mee were somehow on hand to clear goal-bound efforts off the line. Sorry, Eden.
It felt familiar, and ominous. Fortunately, Willian ensured Chelsea would not be made to pay for such profligacy on the edge of halftime. The Brazilian painfully teased Stephen Ward before bursting down the right of the penalty area and unleashing a low, angled drive through the defender's legs and in at the far post. Costa again did well in the buildup, moving across the edge of the box, from left to right, and feinting a shot before laying off to Willian.
More of the same awaited Burnley in the second half.
Costa and Hazard were each denied on two occasions by Heaton, who also turned away Cesar Azpilicueta in added time. John Terry saw a classic JT header saved and also, rather bafflingly, missed a sitter.
Moses had no such problems in front of goal, registering his first league tally for the club since November 2012 with a minute of regular time remaining. The much-vilified Pedro, unleashed down the left channel by Michy Batshuayi, whipped a enticing cross to the back post for Moses, whose rousing finish capped a comprehensive demolition. Conte roared with approval, singling out Batshuayi's involvement in particular, as the result was secured.
Truth be told, supporters are unlikely to see a more one-sided affair at Stamford Bridge this season.
Do not tell that to Conte, though. Afterward, the Italian insisted (rightfully so) that more is required. Improvement is both demanded and expected. Conte never once relaxed, flailing about the touchline with reckless determination and intent. Not even after Moses added the proverbial cherry did he cease to advise, to instruct. Standard fare from a man who demands excellence.
On Saturday, he got it.