Barkley jogs memories as Chelsea sweep Burnley aside
Brady starts for home side but Sarri’s title contenders are in rampant form
Ross Barkley revelled in jogging a few memories as Chelsea reasserted their title credentials in the shadow of the Pennines moors rising above Burnley’s home.
At the start of the season few expected the former England midfielder to force himself into Maurizio Sarri’s midfield plans so effectively but in scoring a fine goal and creating another, Barkley emphasised that he is no longer a forgotten man.
His performance helped a ruthless Chelsea to rise to second place on a day when Sean Dyche’s players – among them, the returning Robbie Brady – were simply not allowed to stick to the gameplan which, for a short while, promised to serve them well.
Burnley’s manager is held in such high regard in this part of the east Lancashire that a local pub has changed its name in his honour. Half a mile down the road from Turf Moor, the Princess Royal has become the Royal Dyche and its patrons would surely have been cheered by the ferocious tempo initially established by the home side.
When Kepa Arrizabalaga flapped at a couple of Brady crosses in the brilliant early-afternoon sunshine Dyche’s gameplan looked to be working to perfection. Chelsea looked more than a little rattled. Then the visitors began pulling themselves together and, as if anxious to issue a reminder that they are far from a one-man team, started showing precisely how good they could be in Eden Hazard’s absence.
Back trouble had once again sidelined the Belgian creator but even without Hazard, Joe Hart was soon called to arms. Indeed the former England goalkeeper did very well to palm away a header from Álvaro Morata dispatched after Barkley’s miscued shot had bounced up into his path.
Chelsea were settling into a convincingly cohesive passand-move groove and Willian soon hit a post. Within minutes Sarri’s side were ahead as Hart proved powerless to repel Morata’s right-foot shot unleashed in the wake of Barkley’s splendid through pass.
As a Morata shot whizzed marginally wide of a post, the magnificently rugged moorland beyond Burnley’s tightly terraced streets had become increasingly cloudy. It seemed a metaphor for Burnley’s afternoon.
Turf Moor’s collective mood was hardly improved by Morata’s penchant for falling over at the most fleeting of contact. How the home fans cheered when the Chelsea striker volleyed an inviting chance straight at Hart and how they booed as Morata collapsed in the face of a strong but decent looking James Tarkowski tackle and immediately demanded a penalty. Tarkowski and Matthew Lowton immediately squared up to the striker.
Perhaps channelling their annoyance, Burnley upped their concentration levels and began closing Chelsea down rather more assiduously. If their aim was to turn the game scrappy, they were succeeding. As the now low sun made a re-appearance, David Luiz was hassled and harried into a few little errors and, temporarily at least, the Chelsea lead looked fragile.
Chelsea, though, had very different ideas and delighted in re-emphasising their class with a second goal. Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté had taken a firm grasp of midfield and the latter cued up Barkley for an immaculately struck left-foot shot from 22 yards.
Hart had barely collected the ball from the back of his net before he was retrieving it once more. This time Barkley was the creator, his delivery enabling Willian to cut in from the left, shift the ball on to his right and send a shot curving imperiously beyond Hart from just outside the area. – Guardian service
Robbie Brady made his return to action after 10 months sidelined with injury.