Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Burnley 1 - 3 Chelsea: Costa on target as Jose's boys blast title warning

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Some games are defined by a goal, some a mistake and some can hinge on a referee's decision but it is a rare one indeed when the abiding memory of the night's toil is a pass, but then there are not many professional footballers who can pass a ball like Cesc Fabregas.

His assist for Andre Schurrle's goal, Chelsea's second of the night amid a 17-minute three-goal blitz, was a timely reminder of the quality of the man who left Arsenal three years ago.

This was Fabregas at his precise, defence splitting best, a perfect comprehension of time and space on a football pitch.

As for Chelsea, with a team assembled on the kind of budget that might be enough to acquire Burnley, never mind the players of Burnley FC, there were moments when they lived up to the vision that Jose Mourinho has for this club.

In fact, they were so fluid and dominant in that first half period in which they broke the home team, they never had to live up to the same high standards for the rest of the second half.

Fabregas is back in the Premier League and he looks the part.

So too Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa, who scored on his league debut for his new club. These are early days, of course, and they were up against the team that finished second in the Championship last season but there is no doubting the title credentials of Mourinho's team; the team that he has built according to his own tastes and which will define his second spell at the club.

For Burnley there was the consolation goal before Chelsea had scored their three, nicely taken by Scott Arfield.

No repeat, however, of the famous 2009 first day victory over Manchester United at Turf Moor, the first time they were in the Premier League.

In fact it never truly looked on the cards even when they did take the lead, and Turf Moor could sense it.

Mourinho chose Courtois in goal and so it was that Petr Cech warmed up as the second-choice goalkeeper for Chelsea.

If, as it seems, this is the end of an era for the great Czech goalkeeper then it has been a marvellous career at the club, but change is afoot at Chelsea.

Burnley fielded a team of nine Englishmen, one Scot and one Northern Irishman, and it was the Scot who gave them the lead on 14 minutes.

Arfield needed one touch to control Matt Taylor's well-placed cut-back from the goal-line, and one more to send it past Courtois before the goalkeeper had the time to raise a glove in protest.

Mourinho's defence had got themselves in a mess in the build-up with a bad clearing header, and John Terry playing Burnley onside, but they still quickly got it together.

The equaliser came four minutes later from Costa when Branislav Ivanovic's cross from the right took a touch off Jason Shackell, hit the post and dropped nicely for the Chelsea striker to score.

Given that it took Fernando Torres 14 games to score his first competitive goal for Chelsea in 2011, this one for Costa – within 17 minutes – was a much quicker return for their bags of money.

It was the second that lingered long in the mind, however, not least for Fabregas' pass into the path of the goalscorer Schurrle, a touch that demonstrated an uncommon understanding of the speed and geometry of football.

It took 24 passes to reach Schurrle's boot and in the closing stages of the move, Eden Hazard carried the ball forward.

From there it went out right to Ivanovic and back in to Fabregas who guided it first time into the path of the World Cup-winning German to put the finishing touch on the ball.

The third was a simple finish for Ivanovic running onto Fabregas' corner, as Burnley threatened to disintegrate.

But before then, Michael Oliver had chosen to book Costa for diving, rather than award him a penalty when he went down taking the ball around goalkeeper Tom Heaton on 30 minutes.

The full-back Ben Mee had played his goalkeeper into trouble with a disastrous back pass and Costa had beaten Heaton to it.

On initial viewing it looked as if the striker had thrown himself down, but replays showed that Heaton had connected with Costa's trailing leg. He had looked for the contact and he had found it and it was one of those penalties that had to be given, however reluctant the referee might feel about it.

It had been a brutal half an hour for Burnley before they finally got in for half-time, and to their credit the team that came out for the second half did not collapse.

In fact at times, they put a bit of pressure of their own on the Chelsea goal.

Courtois made a good save from another Arfield strike, and Lukas Jutkiewicz had a shot from the left that Danny Ings got the faintest of touches on.

It was indicative of Mourinho's frame of mind that he brought Willian on for Schurrle with around 14 minutes remaining to shore the game up.

Even so, there were still moments in the game when the speed of Chelsea's movement, orchestrated by Fabregas, had Burnley players off-balance and wrong-footed, although they could not manage the ruthlessness in front of goal of the first half.

Didier Drogba came on for the latter stages of the game and he left at the end having thrown his shirt into the away supporters.

Drogba has seen some great Chelsea teams over the years and there is the potential in this one to achieve much.

"A new team had to be born" was how Mourinho interpreted his task when he returned last summer, and certainly its first step looks promising.

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