League leader Chelsea drops points in 1-1 draw with Burnley
BURNLEY, England (AP) — Premier League leader Chelsea dropped points for only the third time since September after getting pegged back by dogged Burnley in a 1-1 draw at a snowy Turf Moor on Sunday.
The result meant Chelsea extended its lead to 10 points over second-placed Tottenham, which lost 2-0 at Liverpool on Saturday, but this was one of the most uncomfortable games that Antonio Conte’s side has experienced for some time.
Pedro Rodriguez finished off a rapid counterattack to put Chelsea ahead in the seventh minute, only for Burnley to equalize through Robbie Brady’s curling, 25-meter free-kick in the 24th.
Burnley had the better chances to win the game, with the team’s physical presence and threat on the counterattack causing Chelsea problems throughout.
Since losing 3-0 to Arsenal on Sept. 24, Chelsea has won all of its games except for a 2-0 loss to Tottenham on Jan. 4 and a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Jan. 31.
Manchester City will go second and trim Chelsea’s lead to eight points if it beats Bournemouth on Monday.
This was always going to be a testing game for Chelsea, not least because of the conditions at the bitingly cold atmospheric Turf Moor. Burnley had won nine of its previous 10 games in all competitions at its ground, with its only home loss since early October coming against Man City.
And by the time they had recovered from a shaky opening 20 minutes, the hosts hurt Chelsea with their direct style and relentless work rate.
“We started very well ... but maybe we cannot kill the game,” Conte said. “The second half became a physical game with the long ball. It’s not easy to play here.”
After Brady equalized with his exquisite free kick on his first start since a club-record move on Jan. 31, Burnley created the better chances with Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saving low from Matthew Lowton and Andre Gray either side of halftime.
Pedro’s goal came from one of Chelsea’s few openings, the Spanish winger running onto Victor Moses squared pass to take one touch — wrong-footing Michael Keane in the process — and finishing low into the corner.
That proved to be the visitors’ last shot on target, although Chelsea enjoyed 71 percent possession.
“Chelsea came out the blocks strong but we didn’t let that affect us,” Keane said. “We have some unbelievable belief at home. We never give in, the manager instils it in us.”
Chelsea has had a tough run of fixtures to open 2017, with Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal among the opponents. But the leaders are still huge title favorites given their next five league games are against Swansea, West Ham, Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace.