Chelsea Frustrated By Resolute Burnley
Burnley was always going to be a tough trip. Their home form has been excellent this season, and has accounted for all but one of their points so far.
With Tottenham losing at Liverpool on Saturday, there was, depending on your outlook, the possibility to extend the gap at the top, or be happy with a draw here should it arise. The latter is what we would have to settle for.
Conte named the usual starting eleven, no changes from the side that faced Arsenal.
Burnley went with a 4-4-2.
They pressed us fairly high in the first half, perhaps more than was initially expected. This left space in behind their midfield as Barton and Westwood in the centre moved up on Matic and Kante, allowing Hazard and Costa dropping off to get on the ball. This created our opening chance, with Costa coming deep to receive, and slot in Hazard behind, but Heaton saved well. Within another couple of minutes we were ahead. Burnley lost the ball down their right, half way inside our own half. Hazard, who had dropped off into the space behind their advanced midfield, received the ball and turned on it. He knocked it wide to Moses, and the counter attack was well and truly underway. Moses skipped over an attempted slide tackle from left back Ward. Bearing down on only the two Burnley centre backs now, Moses fed Pedro between them, his excellent first touch set him up perfectly to fire low into the far bottom corner.
Hazard continued to find plenty of space, and was linking well with Costa. Burnley didn’t change tactics, and only when we got into their own half did they adopt a much deeper setup, like the one we were familiar with from our home fixture with them this season. Hazard continued to get on the ball, although perhaps not as early in the build up as we would have liked. His runs and through balls were stymied when they were sitting back, but earlier on in the half when he had been picked out direct from the backline we looked extremely dangerous. We were to enjoy roughly 70% of possession for the rest of the half, but we wouldn’t go in ahead.
Matic was having an off day in midfield, careless in possession, and conceding a few free kicks. One of these was given away when he attempted to back-heel the ball away, missed it, and then fouled the opposition midfielder. Twenty five yards out, deadline day signing Robbie Brady stepped up, and duly curled his effort over the wall with pace and passed the despairing Courtois.
Shortly after levelling, Burnley had a good chance to take the lead. After some good play around the box, Lowton was found in behind the back line by Barton. His shot was saved by Courtois with his right leg.
After the break we again enjoyed the lions share of the ball, but Burnley didn’t press us as high this time, a concerted effort to sit deeper was clear. Their front two now matched up against Kante and Matic more often than not, and as a result it became increasingly more difficult for us to find an opening. Costa was frustrated by a lack of space, one shot deflecting tamely to Heaton, other build up play breaking down on the edge of the box. Burnley still hadn’t worked out how to cut of the threat of our centre backs joining the attack though, and Azpilicueta supporting Moses on the right was a regular sight. He came closest for us in the second half with a thunderous drive just over the angle from all of 25 yards. His crosses were more often headed clear by Michael Keane in the Burnley backline.
With just under twenty minutes remaining, Conte decided to match up man for man, and switch to a 4-4-2 formation. Willian came on for Moses, and Hazard joined Costa up top. Fabregas had already been introduced with twenty-five minutes remaining. The change of shape didn’t really have the desired affect, and the pattern of play didn’t alter much. We had most of the ball, but build up play around the box was braking down, or crosses were being cleared.
Westwood gifted the ball to Hazard who ran at the Burnley defence, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner. Fabregas sliced an effort wide from the edge of the area, but the points were destined to be shared.
The draw puts us ten points clear of second placed Tottenham, but that will be cut to an eight-point gap to second if Manchester City can win at Bournemouth on Monday night and subsequently jump from fifth to second.
Burnley (4-4-2) 1
Heaton; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward;
Boyd, Barton, Westwood, Brady; (Arfield 65)
Gray, (Vokes 82) Barnes.
Chelsea (3-4-3) 1
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill;
Moses, (Willian 72) Kante, Matic, (Fabregas 66), Alonso;
Pedro, (Batshuayi 86), Costa, Hazard.