Kevin Long own goal helps Chelsea keep top four in sight
Antonio Conte’s side will go into FA Cup semi-finals on the back of an away win
Chelsea’s Victor Moses celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game with team mates during their Premier League win over Burnley at Turf Moor. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Burnley 1 Chelsea 2
The FA Cup may have assumed greater importance than Antonio Conte dared imagine at the start of the season but Chelsea are not giving up on Champions League qualification lightly. A top four finish remains a remote prospect for last season’s league champions but remains achievable following this impressive win.
It was a night that will haunt Álvaro Morata after he squandered several chances, one gilt-edged, to press his claims for inclusion at Wembley on Sunday but an own goal from Kevin Long and a Victor Moses strike smoothed over his problems. Sean Dyche’s team had not been beaten at Turf Moor since 20 January yet were second best throughout against a much-changed Chelsea team.
Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Southampton was clearly on Conte’s mind as he made six changes to the team that defeated Mark Hughes’s side at St Mary’s last weekend. The competition has moved up the list of priorities at Stamford Bridge as Champions League qualification slips from their grasp. Eden Hazard and Willian were among the substitutes as the Chelsea manager changed not only his selection but his formation too. Pedro started in central midfield alongside N’Golo Kanté and Tiémoué Bakayoko, with licence to roam behind the front-line in a 3-5-2 formation, while Olivier Giroud and Álvaro Morata were together up front for the first time. They struck up a swift and encouraging rapport.
Burnley came into the contest high on confidence and with Europa League qualification a realistic proposition following five consecutive victories, the strongest recent run in the Premier League. The two-pronged Chelsea attack gave them problems in defence all night, however, with the France and Spain internationals linking well and occupying James Tarkowski and Kevin Long from the start.
Giroud appealed for an early penalty when he tumbled under pressure from Long while sprinting across the Burnley area. A theatrical collapse from the striker, combined with a clean touch of the ball by the Burnley central defender, ensured the appeal to the referee Robert Madley was in vain. Moments later Giroud almost turned provider with a neat flick that sent his strike partner clear of James Tarkowski and through on goal. Morata’s run took him wide but his low shot was goal-bound only to strike goalkeeper Nick Pope’s legs and deflect wide.
The England World Cup hopeful was not so fortunate when Chelsea took the lead from their next attack. Moses was the instigator with a driving run that caught Stephen Ward unawares, although credit is also due to Gary Cahill for the perfectly-timed delivery that dropped at the feet of the right wing-back. Moses pulled his cross back from the byline towards Giroud. Pope’s fingertips got there first, but only succeeded in steering the ball against the arm and thigh of Long before it dropped slowly, agonisingly, over the line. There was a brief silence before the Chelsea support, many of whom had missed kick-off due to travel problems on the M65, celebrated their welcome slice of luck.
Burnley responded strongly with Ashley Barnes a constant menace to the visiting defence. The forward was inches away from connecting with Matthew Lowton’s first-time cross in front of Thibaut Courtois but it was Chelsea who came closest to extending their lead before the interval. Giroud sent Morata through on goal for a second time only for Pope to deny the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker his 15th goal of the season while Kanté drove over from the edge of the area having worked his way into a clear sight of goal.
Conte could have few complaints with Morata’s workrate, his fledgling partnership with Giroud or the pace that frequently stretched Burnley. His finishing was an entirely different matter, however, and there was no clearer illustration of a lack of confidence in front of goal when the Spaniard was sent clear for a third time. Kanté was the provider, intercepting Lowton’s attempted pass forward and releasing Morata from inside the Chelsea half. The striker galloped through and his options appeared to improve when Pope refused to advance beyond his six-yard line. Morata lined up his shot but, to widespread disbelief among the away fans, failed to hit the target. The summer signing was soon replaced by Eden Hazard and exchanged words with a mocking Burnley crowd as he made his way to the bench where his rage did not subside.
The miss assumed greater significance when Burnley levelled courtesy of a wild deflection off Barnes’ heel. Dyche’s side switched play out to Johann Berg Gudmundsson on the right after Moses went down claiming for a non-existent foul. GudmundssonHe tried his luck from distance and it paid dividends when his shot struck his team-mate and sailed into the far corner with Courtois stranded. Chelsea players converged on the referee to protest that Barnes was offside. He was level with Cahill when the ball was struck and Burnley were back in the game. But not for long.
Emerson produced an impressive display on the left for Chelsea and it was his searching cross that produced the winner for Moses. Giroud was unable to connect with another of his scorpion kicks and the delivery dropped invitingly for the unmarked wing-back at the back post. Moses drilled a low shot past Pope for a deserved, hard-fought away win. – Guardian service