Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa shine in Chelsea's win against Burnley
AUG 18, 2014 4:50p ET
Chelsea proved the pundits right tonight, sweeping aside new boys Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor and cementing their status as the Premier League title favorites in the process. Chelsea scored three times in 17 minutes as Diego Costa, Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic staged a Cesc Fabregas led clinic at Turf Moor.
Chelsea’s win rounded out a weekend in which all the favorites did as they were expected to: Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool joined the Blues atop a very young table, while Manchester United lived up to Louis van Gaal’s sober predictions, falling to Swansea in the season opener at Old Trafford.
But Chelsea distinguished themselves in how easy they made it look. City looked a team still shaking off the rust against Newcastle; Liverpool were given all they wanted by Southampton; and Arsenal needed a late goal from Aaron Ramsey to get past Crystal Palace.
In contrast, Chelsea simply put the pedal to the metal after an early mistake allowed Sean Dyche’s team a glimmer of hope. With Fabregas pulling the strings, there was more than a whiff of the irresistible around the Blues, and you got the sense that they could score for fun against a very outmatched Burnley side.
One has to imagine there will be some hand-wringing at both Old Trafford and the Emirates in the wake of this game. Manchester United famously wanted Fabregas and could not get him; Arsenal had the option to pick him back up and declined it. Tonight, he demonstrated exactly what both teams will be missing this season with a complete performance that saw him involved in every goal. Consistent pinpoint passes and cleverly-weighted balls are a rare thing in the game, and Chelsea now have a man who can deliver them game in and game out. Why Arsenal did not desire that as well is a mystery yet to be unraveled.
It is true that the Clarets gave Chelsea an early smack across the chops tonight, capitalizing when the Londoners failed to clear a corner kick. With the entire Chelsea back four plowing ahead to start the counter, Ben Mee ghosted in behind. As John Terry stared in disbelief at the linesman, Mee chipped a ball to the wide-open Scott Arfield at the top of the area. He took a touch to settle, picked his spot, and then volleyed the ball right around Thibaut Courtois and into the top corner. It was a super goal – but the lead would not last.
Just three minutes later, Costa opened his Premier League account with a smash-and-grab strike at the near post. Fabregas sent Ivanovic through with a backheel, to see the defender lay a fine ball on a diagonal through the back line. As it skidded off the wet turf, it put keeper Tom Heaton on the floor, then kicked back off the far post. Costa was there to slam it in.
Fabregas showed his value again a few minutes later on an exquisitely worked team goal. Eden Hazard drove into the back four before laying it back to create space. Branislav Ivanovic found Fabregas, who thought to shoot, then reconsidered, and in a blink of an eye delivered a perfectly-weighted ball on the half volley to Schurrle. Heaton was helpless, Schurrle couldn’t miss, and Chelsea looked every inch the favorites they are.
Chelsea should have had a third on the half hour when Mee sent a woeful backpass in the general direction of Heaton, only to see Costa pounce on it. Rounding the keeper, he was tripped up as Heaton caught his trailing leg. Perhaps his reputation in Spain preceded him, but ref Michael Oliver was dead wrong when instead of pointing to the spot, he whipped out a card, apparently for diving. Manager Jose Mourinho made a token protest to fourth official Mike Dean, but even at that early stage, the game felt won for Chelsea.
And it was indeed iced four minutes later. Fabregas was again the creator, whipping in a corner that Burnley simply could not deal with. Terry and Gary Cahill played the obstructors, and Ivanovic simply slid in unmarked, then volleyed home from six yards. It was a simple goal, and it simply did in the Clarets for the night.
Chelsea did little else for the remainder of the evening, choosing to kill the game off from the restart. Burnley’s pluck was undimmed, but aside from a few very speculative efforts – the best, a long-range attempt from Arfield that Courtois had to stretch to get to – there was little for the Londoners to worry about at all on the night. Didier Drogba also made his second debut tonight for the club, coming on for a late cameo with seven minutes to play.
To be sure, Burnley are not Manchester City, nor are they even a Tottenham. But Chelsea do look deep, disciplined and determined. They also look, at this very early juncture, like champions.