Belfast Telegraph

Blues' spirit fills Conte with hope

Burnley 1-2 Chelsea

By Robert Jones

Antonio Conte saw Victor Moses' second-half winner notch his second Premier League victory of the week but, more importantly, this was a Chelsea performance that also suggested that this so-far instantly forgettable season may yet end with silverware.

The Nigerian international finished clinically in the 70th minute when Emerson's left-wing cross found him unmarked 15 yards out after Olivier Giroud had failed to make contact in the middle.

The goal cancelled out a Burnley equaliser just five minutes earlier which had been as controversial, to Chelsea eyes at least, as it was fortunate.

Johann Berg Gudmundson's hopeful, long-range shot looked unlikely to trouble Thibaut Courtois until it took a wicked deflection off Ashley Barnes, who scored without even being aware of the fact.

Conte, however, was less impressed and led the Chelsea complaints that Moses had been fouled in the build-up to the goal.

Like the equaliser, the opener - an own goal by Kevin Long - may also have benefited from a huge slice of luck but it was still not more than Chelsea deserved for their first-half domination, and Conte's bold team selection.

Conte said: "We played a good game against a difficult team because it is not simple to play against Burnley.

"We played the game very well and the two strikers (Alvaro Morata and Giroud) worked very well. They played a fantastic game with and without the ball. The whole team played an intensive game. We deserved to win."

On playing with two strikers more often, he added: "This is a really good option. In the past it was very difficult for me to try this option but they showed a great link and a great combination and at the same time they worked very hard for the team.

"We will try to reach the FA Cup final. It won't be easy but we must be ready to fight. I saw a fantastic spirit tonight. We must continue this way."

The Italian made six changes from the weekend league win over Southampton, clearly with an eye on Sunday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against the same opponents, and opted to partner Morata and Giroud in a two-man forward line for the first time.

The pair consistently unsettled Burnley's usually rock-solid defence although when Chelsea opened the scoring on 20 minutes, they were not involved.

Instead, it was a curiously route one affair as Gary Cahill's long punt forward sent Moses haring to the by-line where he was put under pressure by full-back Stephen Ward.

The Blues' wing-back managed to chip over a decent cross but it appeared that keeper Nick Pope would deal with it, only for him to push the ball against his own defender Long and into his own goal.

Yet a Burnley side looking to record a sixth successive top-flight victory for the first time since November 1968 could have few complaints at going in a goal down at the interval.

With Giroud and Morata adopting an impressive and early understanding, the former set up the latter for a shot from a wide angle which Pope did well to save via an outstretched boot after 10 minutes.

After going behind, James Tarkowski fouled Morata, presenting Pedro with a free-kick which he placed just wide, Pope was required to block well at the feet of Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko's short pass to N'Golo Kante saw the Burnley defence open up and the midfielder shoot over from 20 yards.

Burnley's first-half hopes had been limited to a couple of dangerous crosses and plenty of long balls and, despite a stronger start to the second period by the hosts, the game should have been decided when Kante broke up a Burnley corner after 55 minutes and sparked a counter-attack.

Kante's superb pass sent Morata sprinting from the halfway line and, after the Spaniard had won his foot race against the Burnley defence, his finish was far less admirable.

When Morata was substituted 15 minutes later, his reaction on the bench suggested a player not completely content.

The improved second-half showing from Sean Dyche's side led, eventually, to an equaliser every bit as fortunate as Chelsea's goal from Burnley's first shot on target of the night, although they remained level for just five minutes.

Burnley looked for a second equaliser, but Chelsea were more likely to find a third with Davide Zappacosta out of luck.

Belfast Telegraph


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