Champions Chelsea had Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas sent off as
the defence of their Premier League title began with a stunning
3-2 home defeat by Burnley on Saturday.
Disjointed and embarrassed in the first half, Chelsea threatened
to mount the most unlikely of comebacks in a stirring second-half
display, but just failed to overcome their numerical
Sam Vokes was Burnley's match-winner with a brace and Alvaro
Morata's lively Chelsea debut -- a goal and an assist for David
Luiz -- came in vain.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte's bleak afternoon began in the 14th
minute when new club captain Cahill was shown his first red card
in five seasons.
Attempting to dribble forward, Cahill saw the ball run away from
him and tried to block Steven Defour's clearance.
Instead, his studs caught the Belgium midfielder on the shin and
while it was accidental, it was also reckless and referee Craig
Pawson immediately brandished the red card.
The composure of the Chelsea players disappeared for the
remainder of a half that will not be quickly forgotten.
Fabregas was booked for sarcastically applauding Pawson's
decision to give a free-kick against him and much worse was to
That was due in part to the belief that Burnley now possess,
having retained their Premier League status last season.
The visitors were also assisted by disarray in the Chelsea
defence in spite of the introduction of Andreas Christensen to
replace unfortunate debutant Jeremie Boga.
Without Cahill to guide him through his defensive duties, Luiz
lapsed into carelessness.
He ought to have been closer to Burnley striker Vokes when
Matthew Lowton curled in a 24th minute cross, but the Welshman
was given space to clip a volley off Luiz's heels and past
Six minutes before half-time, left-back Stephen Ward made it 2-0
in stunning fashion.
Ignoring the obvious opportunity to launch a cross into the
Chelsea area, the visitors played a free-kick short.
- Echoes of Mourinho -
After a one-two with the excellent Jack Cork, Ward strode onto
the return pass and let fly with a rasping left-foot shot that
flew into the top-right corner.
It took 40 minutes before Luiz launched Chelsea's first shot in
anger high over the bar. While that was speculative, Burnley were
They chose to play another free-kick short in the 43rd minute.
This time it was Defour who curled the ball into the area. Vokes
drifted away from the static Luiz and powered home a header that
gave Courtois no chance.
Stamford Bridge was stunned. The Chelsea supporters vented their
anger towards referee Pawson, while the delirious Burnley fans
sang: "We are top of the league!"
It is only one game, yet the parallels with Chelsea's last
defence of a Premier League title two seasons ago under Jose
Mourinho were uncanny.
Not least because Willian stood up as the only player with any
heart for the first hour.
After N'Golo Kante had seen a shot deflected onto the roof of the
net in first-half stoppage time and Marcos Alonso had been denied
by Tom Heaton, Willian began to haul Chelsea back into the
The Brazilian curled an exquisite 69th-minute cross into space
behind the Burnley defence and substitute Morata stooped to guide
a diving header past Heaton, just nine minutes after coming on.
Had Morata not touched a goal-bound Christensen shot over the
line five minutes later, it would have been 3-2 sooner. But the
offside flag was raised.
All seemed lost when Fabregas earned a second yellow card for
lunging in on Cork nine minutes from time.
That was until Luiz sprinted onto Morata's pass and volleyed in
to bring the nine men to within a goal of Burnley.
A frantic finish saw Burnley's Robbie Brady strike the post with
a free-kick, while Chelsea's pressure just failed to bring an