Let’s preface this by saying that Chelsea’s lead at the table entitles them to a day or two when they’re not at the races. Dropping two points against Burnley isn’t what will cost them should they fail to secure the Premier League title this year. A slew of these results would be a problem. One? In the snow, at Turf Moor, which is somehow one of the hardest grounds to play on in the whole league. Sure.
That said, the Blues were abysmal today. They started well — well enough to win comfortably — but as soon as they encountered any adversity they rolled over and essentially waited for the match to end. The second half in particular devolved into a series of silly punts forward, with Chelsea players operating under the blind hope that the Clarets wouldn’t be the first to react to any second balls. Spoiler: they would. 3-4-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2? You name it, we were crap in it.
This is not the match report anyone was expecting 20 minutes into the match. Back then, despite the snow and the wind and the flying elbows of Ashley Barnes (I guess we were due some of those after Marcos Alonso’s opener last weekend), Chelsea were 1-0 up and looking beyond comfortable. N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic were eating the Burnley midfield of Joey Barton and Ashley Westwood alive, and the counterattack was humming along nicely.
The Blues might have netted twice in the first ten minutes, with Eden Hazard wasting a tasty feed from Diego Costa before Pedro opened the scoring. It was a classic break, with possession won on the edge of our box before Hazard powered through midfield, dancing away from a mess of shirts and then picking out Victor Moses on the right. Robbie Brady’s attempted intervention went rather awry, allowing Moses to push deep into Burnley territory, and his centering pass was gobbled up by Pedro, who slipped neatly past Tom Heaton to give us a perfect start.
The hosts didn’t seem able to get in the game. They were trying to stretch the Chelsea defence with long passes to Andre Gray, but since he was their only outlet and David Luiz (in an unfortunate ponytail due to the weather) was cleaning him up like a sexy roomba, Burnley never really got anywhere. Meanwhile, Hazard was terrifying the daylights out of them, skipping past tackle after tackle after tackle and ... getting his achilles stomped on by Matthew Lowton. He wasn’t skipping so much after that.
Speaking of fouls, it looked as though Matic was letting his personal vendetta against Burnley get the best of him. Sent off after Barnes tried quite hard to snap his leg two years ago, Matic clearly hadn’t forgotten the assault, and amused himself by clattering his nemesis at every opportunity. While funny, the Serbian’s crusade also caused us problems, giving the Clarets a few free kicks we’d rather not have dealt with. And his silly free kicks weren’t just limited to Barnsian retribution.
I’m not sure why it isn’t a rule that everyone gets a free hit on Joey Barton once a match (if you think it shouldn’t be, I invite you to watch his, uh, ‘tackle’ on Willian late on). But since it’s not, Matic should probably have thought twice about trying to trick his way past the midfielder inside our final third and kicking him when it didn’t work. Brady lined up the free kick 30 yards from goal, and bent a sumptuous effort over the wall and into the top corner, kissing Thibaut Courtois’ fingertips on the way. 1-1.
The goal sparked Burnley into something like life. Nobody will pretend that they were much of an attacking threat (although Courtois did have to save smartly from Lowton later in the first half), but they were no longer looking nearly as ragged, forcing Chelsea into patient buildup play that never really went anywhere. With the wind swirling, I suppose I can see the argument for pumping long balls at a defence and hoping the bounces go your way, but we spent upwards of an hour trying it and by the end it should have been pretty clear that we ought to try something new.
We didn’t, despite introducing Cesc Fabregas for Matic, switching to a 4-2-3-1 with Willian on for Moses and then trying a strike pairing of Michy Batshuayi and Costa to close out the match. There were no chances; there were barely any half chances. The enduring image of the draw (assuming we cauterise the memory of that Brady goal with alcohol, which I am about to try)? A football on the corrugated roof of Turf Moor, rolling slowly down the gutter before plummeting into oblivion.
Yes, that’s definitely a metaphor.