Chelsea were caught cold and given an early fright to kick off their Premier League season before producing an emphatic response to secure a 3-1 victory at newly promoted Burnley. In what was a strong first statement as Jose Mourinho’s team look to insure that his second season back at the club does not end trophy-less like the first, new arrivals Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas both impressed. The former scored an early debut goal and the latter set up the second and third, delightfully so for Andre Schürrle, and then from a corner for Branislav Ivanovic, all before halftime.
The feeling has been that Chelsea have bolstered its squad better than any of their rivals this summer. But at Turf Moor they found themselves behind inside 15 minutes to a club whose entire squad is valued at the same amount as Chelsea paid for Costa. Scott Arfield cracked in a superb strike to bring the crowd to its feet and create anticipation that Burnley could match its home debut when they were last in the Premier League, when beating Manchester United in 2009.
Thiabaut Courtois, having got the nod over Petr Cech to start in goal, had been unmoved and beaten on that occasion, but was tested little for the remaining 75 minutes. Fabregas and Oscar flourished ahead of Nemanja Matic in midfield, while Schürrle and Eden Hazard displayed pace and guile either side of the impressive Costa. Chelsea occasionally lacked the level of intensity that Mourinho demands and will have far tougher tests this season, but, especially given that their biggest struggle last season had been to break down inferior opponents, this was an encouraging start. For Burnley, the opposition will not always pose so many problems but this was an early wake-up call to the step up in class from the Championship to the Premier League.
It had all started far brighter for Sean Dyche’s men. Their biggest summer signing at just £1.5 million, Lukas Jutkiewicz, had a couple of early efforts off target before, 14 minutes in, the home side had a shock lead. Chelsea’s defense was caught out following a corner, allowing one of Burnley’s few players with Premier League experience,, Matthew Taylor, to chip back from the byline to the edge of the box. Arfield took full advantage of the leisurely amount of space afforded him and took a good touch before crashing a superbly struck shot past Courtois, who, unsighted, could not react.
Turf Moor was rocking and memories of defeats to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Chelsea that cost Chelsea the Premier League title last season came back to the fore. But those feelings were extinguished almost as soon as they begun. Ivanovic started at right-back, with Cesar Azpilicueta on the opposite side and new signing Filipe Luis on the bench, and produced a teasing low cross that Burnley’s defense was unable to handle. Facing his own goal, Jason Shackell stretched and turned the ball against his own post. The fortune that went his way was quickly dissolved as Costa snatched upon the rebound and fired the ball into an unguarded net with his left foot. After 36 goals for Atletico Madrid last season, the Brazilian-born Spain international was up and running for his new club and providing the physical goal-scoring threat Chelsea sorely lacked throughout their last campaign.
Four minutes later it was time for their other major arrival to give a perfect example of the new dimension he can bring to Chelsea’s play. Ivanovic was again involved, this time picking out the Spanish midfielder on the edge of the box. As the ball came toward him, everyone, including, crucially, the Burnley defense was expecting a shot. Instead, he directed a perfectly cushioned pass on the half-volley to find the run of Schürrle in behind. Fresh from lifting the World Cup, the German forward beat goalkeeper Tom Heaton with a first-time shot.
Chelsea were now soaring and they should have had a chance to go further in front in the 30th minute. Costa seized on a slack back pass and looked to have gotten round the advancing Heaton before tumbling to the ground. Replays confirmed that there had been a clear clip of the striker’s leg by the Burnley goalkeeper, but referee Michael Oliver, rather than a penalty, brandished a yellow card toward Costa for simulation.
Mourinho was angered on the sideline, but, with Chelsea now dominant, it was a decision that was to have no impact on the match’s outcome. Before the interval the game was taken decisively away from Burnley with a goal that will surely frustrate Dyche far more than the first two. Fabregas’ corner was allowed to travel all the way through to the center of the six-yard box for Ivanovic to volley in as Burnley’s defenders got sucked toward the ball.
As with the first, Burnley started the second half brightly and again Arfield threatened the Chelsea goal with a well-struck effort. But this time that was the limit of the threat Burnley posed. Dyche will take something from his side not conceding again in the second half, but it was a 45 minutes that Chelsea could play out in almost total comfort. The latter stages were only enlivened when Didier Drogba came off the bench to make his second debut for Chelsea, just over two years after his last kick for the club won them the Champions League. For just a split second it appeared he might continue where he left off after taking down a route one pump forward from Courtois before striking at goal, but this time the ball sailed wide of the target.