Chelsea stutter against Burnley at Turf Moor

Thibaut Courtois conceded a direct free-kick for the first time in his Premier League career

Chelsea missed the chance to move 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League as they were held to a draw by a resilient Burnley at Turf Moor.

The hosts had won all four of their previous homes games without conceding but fell behind early on when Pedro finished off a sweeping attack.

The visitors dominated possession and it seemed only a matter of time before they added to their advantage.

However, Burnley’s record signing Robbie Brady – making his full debut following a January move from Norwich – equalised with a stunning free-kick.

The Clarets almost extended their lead before the break but Thibaut Courtois superbly denied Matt Lowton from close range.

Chelsea did not have a single shot on target in the second half as Burnley took the game to the Premier League leaders, Andre Gray testing Courtois with a low drive when he was through one-on-one.

In the end, manager Antonio Conte will perhaps consider this a point gained as the Blues moved 10 points ahead of Tottenham.

Burnley, meanwhile, remain 13th.

-A blip for Blues against battling Burnley-

Chelsea’s away form in the Premier League is unrivalled but this was always going to be a difficult test for the Blues.

Just two sides have a better home record than Burnley – Chelsea and Tottenham – with 28 of the Clarets’ 29 points collected prior to the visit of Conte’s men coming at Turf Moor.

Initially, it looked like the visitors had the measure of their opponents, swiftly turning defence into attack to catch the Clarets out of position and open the scoring.

To Burnley’s credit, they did not abandon a system that had brought them so much success on home soil. They allowed Chelsea to dominate possession but closed them down quickly as soon as they approached the box.

A disciplined four-man defence had the bustling Diego Costa and the mercurial Eden Hazard under control, limiting the Blues to just two shots on target in the whole game, both of which came in the first half.

It was only the second time all season they have dropped points against a side outside the top six. With just Manchester City and Manchester United left to face out of the leading group, it will take an almighty collapse to deny the Blues a fifth Premier League title.

-Time to start Fabregas?-

A key factor in Chelsea’s impressive season has been consistency, with Conte rarely making changes to his side unless forced to.

Against Burnley, he chose the same XI that started in the 3-1 home win against Arsenal last time out. That meant Cesc Fabregas – who scored against the Gunners – had to make do with a place on the bench.

Despite Conte recently calling Fabregas “a genius” and likening him to Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo, the Spanish midfielder has started just five games this season.

N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic were preferred in midfield against Burnley but both are defensive-minded and it quickly became evident that Chelsea were lacking the creativity of someone like Fabregas.

Once again Fabregas climbed off the bench but with 20 minutes remaining against a determined Burnley side, it left him little time to make an impression.

It could be time for Conte to give Chelsea’s ‘Pirlo’ his chance to shine for the run-in.

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