Chelsea edged out Burnley 2-0 on Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge for Thomas Tuchel’s first win as their manager and only their second Premier League win of 2021.
However, there were still many causes for concern as the much-changed attack from the 0-0 draw with Wolves - Tuchel’s first game in charge - struggled to hit the back of the net, having almost 20 shots on goal.
They finally made a breakthrough a few minutes before half-time when Jorginho’s pass from deep opened space for Mason Mount to run into past the halfway line, before him and Callum Hudson-Odoi quickly shifted the ball across for the onrushing Cesar Azpilicueta to rifle home from close range.
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Despite the introduction of Christian Pulisic at half-time, their woes in front of goal persisted until the 84th minute when his dinked ball into the box was volleyed home by Marcos Alonso.
It was a fitting way to mark his first game for Chelsea since he fell out with Frank Lampard on 26th December at half-time against West Brom.
Even though Burnley made themselves characteristically hard to break down and appeared to brimming with confidence in the first-half, they were ultimately overwhelmed by Chelsea and the only chance they created was James Tarkowski's header from a corner deep into injury time.
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That was minutes after debutant Joel Mumbongo hit the post for what would have been their best chance of the game if he had not been subsequently ruled offside.
The win means Chelsea rise to seventh in the table, albeit with Everton and Aston Villa in eight and ninth respectively having two games in hand each, and face Tottenham next Thursday.
Burnley, on the other hand, fall to sixteenth and have another tricky game on Wednesday against Manchester City.
TALKING POINT - BURNLEY FLATTER TO DECEIVE
While the notion of a team on a shoestring budget largely made up of homegrown players holding their own in the best league in the world is an enchanting underdog story, is it close to having run its course in terms of success? And has it also become rather tedious for the neutral observer?
After two previous one-season forays in 2009-10 and 2014-15, this is their fifth consecutive year in the Premier League. A highlight was coming seventh in 2017-18 and getting to play Europa League football the following season, but with this being their most testing season in the top tier since the first season back, must they change in order to continue competing at Premier League level?
The new American owners - investment firm ALK Capital - could potentially provide added investment to give more flexibility to strengthen than usual, but considering the altered work-permit rules due to Brexit, many other clubs could be forced to follow in Burnley's footsteps and focus their transfer strategy on signing British players too, which means their recruitment operation will likely not be affected at all.
However, one does wonder if the club's new owners will be as understanding and appreciative of Sean Dyche's efforts as former chairman Mike Garlick was.
Additionally, the fact that both of Burnley's starting strikers are now injured while the team are two places and eight points above the drop is an ominous situation.
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MAN OF THE MATCH - CALLUM HUDSON-ODOI (CHELSEA)
Playing slightly out of position at right wing-back, the performances of Hudson-Odoi have been the surprise success story of Tuchel's so-far short tenure at the West London club. He was completely unplayable and one reporter even overheard Robbie Brady and his manager arguing over the Irishman's inability to deal with Hudson-Odoi defensively. Not only did he assist the opening goal, but he also hit the post himself, completed 100% of his take-ons made a whopping ten passes into the opposition box, including the three chances he created. After Chelsea weirdly being reluctant to loan, sell nor use him, Hudson-Odoi has finally found his place in the team it seems. It represents bad news for Reece James though, who had done well to make the right-back position his own under Frank Lampard, while England's plethora of options in the position means that Hudson-Odoi excelling in this role would likely only be greeted by a sigh from Gareth Southgate.
Chelsea: Mendy 6, Azpiliceuta 8, Silva 8, Rudiger 7, Hudson-Odoi 9, Alonso 8, Jorginho 8, Kovacic 7, Mount 7, Werner 6, Abraham 5...Subs: Pulisic 7, James 6, Havertz 6
Burnley: Pope 7, Pieters 5, Mee 5, Tarkowski 7, Lowton 6, Cork 4, Westwood 5, Brady 5, McNeil 5, Wood 5, Vydra 4...Subs: Rodriguez 5, Gudmundsson 4, Mumbongo 5
40' - GOAL!!! Azpilicueta rifles home the first goal of the Tuchel era!! It started deep in their half when Jorginho set Mount free. He ran at the Burnley defence, laid it off to Hudson-Odoi, who shifted it to Azpilicueta on his right. The speed of their passing was much better and they got their reward for it.
58' - OFF THE POST!!! Undoubtedly one of the best chances of the game! Hudson-Odoi drives at Pieters and strikes low from just inside the box, but it's deflected off the Dutch defender and onto the post. Burnley need to be careful the game doesn't fall out of reach here.
68' - CLOSE!! Brilliant again from Hudson-Odoi who makes a run in behind to receive the ball and his resulting pass cross-goal is deflected on-target by Mee's lunging challenge. Pope keeps it out with a great save.
71' - SAVED!! Hudson-Odoi involved yet again! This time his low pass sets up Pulisic, but the American's first-time effort is met by a reflex save from Pope. How is Pope not England's number one keeper?! He's kept Burnley in this.
84' - WHAT A GOAL!!! And what a way to mark your return to the team! Alonso controls the ball in the air and whacks it home on the volley! 2-0 now. It must be game, set and match surely?
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