Chelsea saw their lead at the top of the table cut to five points, after they fell to a 1-1 draw with struggling Burnley. The Blues had Nemanja Matic sent off as they surrendered a lead to drop two crucial points. Branislav Ivanovic scored the opening goal, but the 10 men couldn’t hold out and Ben Mee grabbed an equaliser which has hit the hosts’ advantage in the title race.
Jose Mourinho left out Gary Cahill from his starting line-up, replacing him with Kurt Zouma. Juan Cuadrado made just his second start since joining the club, while Diego Costa made his first league start for the club in over a month after returning from his ban. With the return of Costa the Blues would have expected to have more of a cutting edge, but that wasn’t apparent.
Branislav Ivanovic got his second goal of the week here, as he managed to bury Eden Hazard’s cross to put the hosts ahead. They looked set to extend their lead to 10 points before City kicked off in the late game, but they were unable to find a second goal to put the game beyond doubt.
But, in the 70th minute, Chelsea were dealt a huge blow. Matic received a heavy challenge from Ashley Barnes, and his angry reaction to the tackle earned him a red card for his troubles, sending the league leaders down to 10 men. Not just were they without their defensive shield for the last 20 minutes, they’ve now lost him for the next three games, including the Capital One Cup final next weekend.
Without Matic in the side, Chelsea are always more vulnerable at the back. The Clarets sensed an opportunity and they eventually took advantage with less than 10 minutes to go. Mee headed in from a corner, which give Burnley a point and saw them move up a place to 18th in the table. After getting a point at the Etihad earlier in the season, Burnley have managed to take a point at the home of both of this season’s best-performing sides.
While Burnley worked hard for their point and may have deserved it, Mourinho’s side will feel hard done by, as they had two penalty shouts turned down. The manager wouldn’t be drawn on too much after the game, but he did point out the moments where he thought the game had been decided.
The Portuguese said in his post-match press conference, “There are four moments of the game where you can write the story. Minutes 30, 33, 43 and 69. Don’t ask me more questions. I can’t go through the incidents. I am punished when I refer to them.”
With City at Liverpool next week, there was a chance that Chelsea could have been seven points clear with a game in hand by the end of next weekend. This result shows just how unpredictable the league is, and there are plenty of twists and turns left over the course of the season, with those assuming the Blues had the title in the bag left to think again now.
LCN Man of the Match: Branislav Ivanovic