Terry rises above storm to fire Chelsea to win over Burnley
Burnley 1 Chelsea 2
Despite the current media hysteria surrounding John Terry, the Chelsea centre--half displayed nerves of steel against Burnley on Saturday.
Say what you like about John Terry, and this weekend most people have ("this vile and gutless man" - News of the World), he remains an outstanding centre-half, with nerves of ice. Perhaps he even enjoys living dangerously in his professional as well as personal life.
Thus on Saturday, apparently unconcerned about a public appearance in front of a largely hostile crowd of some 21,000 people plus television audience, he contrived to put himself under additional pressure by collecting a yellow card for a deliberate foul with more than an hour to play but by the end of the evening had rescued his team with the winning goal and could reasonably claim to have been the most assured performer on the pitch.
There may or may not be Chelsea players who resent the size of their captain's ego, influence, car and salary, but at the final whistle a grateful Petr Cech ran 50 yards to embrace him, later declaring: "He was brilliant in the last game against Birmingham and he just kept on going today. He showed a lot of character because it was not an easy situation for him, but he's been brilliant and that's what you need."
All this will have been observed with much interest and presumably some admiration by Fabio Capello, recuperating in Lugano after a recent knee operation and musing on whether to replace Terry as England's captain with a more virtuous member of his squad. Whatever his compatriot decides, Carlo Ancelotti has no qualms about Terry's right to a place in the team or the armband and has already confirmed that he will continue to hold both positions for tomorrow's trip to Hull City, where Chelsea will hope – indeed expect – to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League.
They will not be surprised to encounter a similar sort of game to this one, although Terry and his team-mates would be grateful for a first 45 minutes as easy as Saturday's. Brian Laws, in his first home game as Burnley manager after three away defeats without a goal, wanted his team to have a go at the leaders but they were too timid, even with Robbie Blake brought back for a first league start since early December as an extra attacker.
Apart from being forced to stop Blake illegally on one occasion, which brought him his yellow card, Terry was untroubled and his team seemed to be coasting after Nicolas Anelka's sixth goal in as many games and 12th of the season. The home team's central defenders Clarke Carlisle, the stand-in captain in Graham Alexander's absence, and new signing Leon Cort, both went missing calamitously as Cech began a swift counter-attack that ended with Florent Malouda crossing to an unmarked Anelka.
Not for nothing, however, had Burnley suffered only one previous home defeat. "I said to the players at half-time that we'd shown them too much respect," Laws said.
There was nothing respectful about the manner in which their leading goalscorer Steven Fletcher harried Alex, who should have dealt with Blake's through ball but allowed the striker to equalise.
Terry needed to remind his colleagues that the time for sitting back was in front of their televisions yesterday afternoon as Arsenal and United attempted to cut each others' throats. The winning goal he headed from Frank Lampard's late corner was deserved reward on the day for himself and his team, despite all Burnley's spirit and desire to play proper football.
Ancelotti could not have hoped for anything better than five straight wins and 19 goals since his quartet of players left for the Africa Cup of Nations. Rivals have been unable to take advantage and now he has Didier Drogba back for Hull and then Arsenal next weekend. Reminded that Chelsea had succeeded on a ground where neither Arsenal nor United managed to win this season, the manager suggested: "Maybe this is a sign of the destiny of the Premier League title."
Meanwhile, if Burnley are to pull away from the bottom three, into which they fell last week for the first time since promotion, they will need to tighten up at the back and dramatically improve the away form that has brought a single point from 12 games.
"We are starting to look quite solid on our travels, which had to be my first priority," Laws said. "We don't look like we are going to concede goals left, right and centre."
Well, left (to Anelka) and right (to Terry) on Saturday, but you know what he meant. The crowd have work to do on their cutting repartee as well. "Same old Terry, always cheating" was good but, like the team, they failed to build on one moment of promise.
Burnley (4-4-2) Jensen; Mears, Cort, Carlisle, Kalvenes (Edgar, 35); Elliott, McDonald (Paterson, 60), Bikey, Eagles; Blake (Thompson, 72), Fletcher. Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Duff, Gudjonsson, Nimani.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, A Cole (Deco, 76); Ballack, Lampard, Zhirkov; J Cole (Sturridge, 72), Anelka, Malouda. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Carvalho, Ferreira, Matic, Borini.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Burnley Bikey. Chelsea Terry.
Man of match: Terry