Boisterous Barkley helps Chelsea go 10 matches unbeaten
No Eden Hazard. No problem. Ross Barkley provided two assists, scored a goal himself and was all over Burnley as Chelsea swaggered to another victory, sticking 4 goals past the Clarets to occupy second position in the table.
The other tables, though, turned quite rapidly with Burnley starting on the front foot and showing positive intent, but then seemed to run out of fuel rather too quickly and struggled to match Chelsea’s authoritative passing. The visitors took a while getting to grips with Sean Dyche’s 4-4-2 formation, but once they did, they moved the ball in the manner of a side with serious designs on winning the title.
It was, however, disheartening for the Burnley fans to see their side slide down so fast after a rollicking start and Sean Dyche’s exasperation was justified bearing in mind the same side which beat Chelsea at the Bridge on the opening day of last season.
The Clarets, now 15th in the table, showed real signs of turning things around as the match began with a string of crosses into the Chelsea box. They not only dominated possession but constantly posed threat, keeping Kepa Arizzabalaga on his toes. But apart from those opening 10 minutes, there were only fleeting moments when the world’s most expensive keeper was drawn into a save.
It was almost time that Chelsea took the attack to the opponents as Morata’s through ball saw Willian run into acres of space ahead of him. The move almost paid off but the Brazilian’s grounded shot lacked the desired swerve to come back off the far post. But the wait wasn’t long.
Chelsea’s midfield was once again excellent with slick exchange of passes always up their sleeves. Be it Kante’s uber-increasing stamina, Jorginho’s witty passes or Barkley’s twist of hips past the defenders, Chelsea had too much class for Burnley all over the pitch. Jeff Hendricks was caught in possession by Alonso with Kante passing it to Barkley whose peach of a ball through the Burnley defense let Morata unfurl a one-touch finish past Joe Hart.
Not that Burnley weren’t creating enough chances, but they terribly lacked sharpness in the final third and Chelsea won due to converting the ones coming their way. Gudmundsson and the comeback man Robbie Brady might have been rampaging up and down the flanks, running at the Chelsea defense and paving their own way out, but they either couldn’t find the ideal man to pass or saw that man squander the chance.
And, in fairness, David Luiz and even more so, Rudiger had another great game. They were not only rigid at the back, winning the majority of challenges and aerial duels but when needed, even scampered forward to play the 40-yard pass.
Chelsea apparently shifted gears post the interval as they drove into the Burnley penalty area more frequently, and with ease and grace. Ross Barkley is cementing his place in the side and his expertise shone upon Stamford Bridge along with the setting sun. Considering the influence of Eden Hazard in the majority of Chelsea wins this season, doubts clouded over the minds of many before the start of the game. But the Englishman put all those doubts to bed, and more importantly, didn’t let anybody feel the Belgian’s absence.
Jorginho, yet again, was instrumental at the heart of the midfield. Stamford Bridge witnessed an English record unwind as Barkley became the only Englishman after Frank Lampard in Feb 2013 to score in three consecutive Premier League matches. But everything was set in motion by the Italian in the center-circle with a neat flick to Kante who then guided the ball to Barkley. Decided to complete the move himself, he pulled out a grounded shot through the legs of Tarkowski and the angle took it past the diving Joe Hart into the right corner.
Another eye-catching performer was Willian. The only blemish on the Brazilian’s outstanding performance was the dive, claiming a penalty which cost him a yellow. But, on another note, his scuttling energy could hardly be quelled as he repeatedly spread anxiety among the Burnley defenders running through a wonderful repertoire of dexterous ball manipulations, defender-spinning swivels, and delicate touches.
The icing on the cake, however, was placed when Barkley passed the ball to Willian on the left as he cut inside the defenders and fired in a shot from outside the box and a slight deflection helped it veer beyond Hart into the far corner. Sean Dyche availed all three of his substitutions, but the tension had long since been lanced.
It felt like salt rubbed into the wounds when the Hazard-less Chelsea took a major blow half an hour into the match as Pedro took his leave owing to a shoulder injury. Despite this, Chelsea managed to put up a rounded performance, and his replacement, Loftus-Cheek, despite looking shaky early on, capped off the riot scoring deep into injury time.
As had been the story of the evening, Burnley yet again failed to clear their lines and Alonso managed to sneak the ball following a corner to Chelsea’s midweek hat-trick hero only for the Englishman to somehow find the back of the net through the heavily cluttered penalty-area.
Chelsea could easily have extended their goal difference if not for Alvaro Morata to be guilty of profligacy, but all that mattered little as the Spaniard opened the floodgates and gifting his team the much-needed momentum after a difficult opening 10 minutes at Turf Moor.