Chelsea draw 1-1 with Burnley
On a freezing day, with snow flurries making Turf Moor even more inhospitable than usual, against a team with the third-best home record in the Premier League.
Burnley have turned their stadium into something like a fortress this season, taking 29 of their 30 points at home – a record that looks certain to keep them up despite their away-day woes.
They have beaten Liverpool and Everton, were unlucky to lose to an added-time winner by Arsenal, while giving Manchester City a huge scrap before being beaten.
So while Antonio Conte was naturally disappointed to drop points to a team outside the top six for only the second time this season, the draw actually extended Chelsea’s lead at the top to 10 points following Tottenham’s defeat at Anfield.
That advantage could be cut to eight if Manchester City win at Bournemouth tomorrow but, while not at their imperious best, Chelsea again showed the classic combination that all would-be champions possess.
They have the strength and mentality not to be bullied by teams like Burnley and the skill and the ability to beat the bigger clubs.
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Sun, February 12, 2017
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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte shakes hands with Burnley manager Sean Dyche after the game
Despite the conditions, Chelsea looked as if they would cruise it early on and justify the bookmakers offering 8-1 odds on an away victory.
Pedro put them ahead after only seven minutes following the sort of counter-attack that has been their trademark this season.
The Spaniard was involved in the start of the move deep in his own half and then ran 80 yards to take Victor Moses pass past Michael Keane before sliding his shot past Tom Heaton for his sixth goal of the season, but only second away from Stamford Bridge.
Burnley struggled to disrupt Chelsea in the early stages but Robbie Brady’s equaliser on his home debut changed all that.
After Nemanja Matic had fouled Joe Barton, £13million record signing Brady curled a superb 25-yard free-kick up and over the Chelsea wall and into the top corner.
Last weekend Courtois was marvelling at Tom Brady’s heroics in the SuperBowl after making a flying trip to Houston. Today he was admiring the skills of another Brady.
Pedro opened the scoring for Chelsea
Republic of Ireland boss Roy Keane kept a stone-face but would have noted the effort. Remarkably, it was the first direct free-kick Chelsea have conceded since a Rickie Lambert effort in March 2013.
But it is not the first time Brady has scored against one of Conte’s team, having scored for his country in their Euro 2016 clash with Italy.
At half-time there was a pitch-side demonstration of what you should do if someone has a heart attack.
The highly emotional Conte might have needed some assistance in that area if Burnley had scored from either of the two great chances they created side of half-time.
When Barton threaded a pass through the defence, Matt Lowton had clear sight of goal but Courtois saved with his legs.
And after a quick Clarets breakaway early in the second half, the Belgian goalkeeper made a vital stop from Andre Gray, although the striker will regret failing to get enough power behind his shot.
Brady (left) curled in Burnley's equaliser
Chelsea dominated the rest of the second half but the fact Heaton did not have a shot to save was testament to Burnley’s defensive organisation and concentration which subdued their much-vaunted front trio of Diego Costa, Hazard and Pedro.
Their four efforts from Cesar Azpiliceuta, Hazard, Pedro and substitute Cesc Fabregas all flew off target and Burnley held out quite comfortably.
While they look on course for top flight survival this season, Sean Dyche’s side can also reach the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday when non-Leaguers Lincoln visit Turf Moor.
Their manager Danny Cowley was on a scouting trip and will have been impressed.
Burnley may have missed out on an eight successive home win for the first time since 1961 – when they were runners-up to Tottenham – but at the final whistle they celebrated as if it was a victory.
When you consider the gulf in finances and recent history of the two clubs, you can understand why.
Burnley (4-4-2): Heaton 6; Lowton 6, Keane 6, Mee 6, Ward 6; Boyd 6, Barton 7, Westwood 6, Brady 7 (Arfield 64, 5); Gray 5 (Vokes 82, 5), Barnes 6. Goal: Brady 24. Booked: Westwood, Lowton, Barton. Next up: Lincoln (h) Sat, FA Cup.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois 8, Azpilicueta 6, Luiz 6, Cahill 6; Moses 6 (Willian 72, 6), Kanté 7, Matic 6 (Fabregas 67, 6), Alonso 6; Pedro 7 (Batshuayo 87) , Costa 6, Hazard 7. Goal: Pedro 7. Booked: Luiz, Fabregas. Next up: Wolves (a), Sat FA Cup.
Referee: K. Friend (Leics).
Stat of the Day: Burnley have won 29 of their 30 points at home this season.