Tuesday 24 October 2017

Lacklustre draw caps a week to forget for 10-man Chelsea

Chelsea's Nemanja Matic received a straight red card for violent conduct
Chelsea's Nemanja Matic received a straight red card for violent conduct

Dion Fanning

It was an uncomfortable day at Stamford Bridge which was supposed to improve once the game against a side in the bottom three began.

After their tough midweek game in Europe, Chelsea played like a tired team that has depended all season on a core group of players. But a Branislav Ivanovic goal should still have been enough to win the points until Nemanja Matic reacted to a high challenge from Ashley Barnes and was sent off 20 minutes from the end.

Ten minutes later, Ben Mee equalised and Chelsea, who felt they should have had two penalties in the first half, had plenty to be angry about.

The club's reaction to the incident on the Paris Metro has been unequivocal. In the match programme, chairman Bruce Buck said the club were "disgusted" and "appalled". The game against Burnley was Chelsea's second annual Game for Equality, and Mourinho said everyone should "go together and show what Chelsea football club is - the values we defend and the behaviour we don't accept".

John Terry, who was cleared of a racially aggravated offence by a magistrates' court but banned for four matches for the same incident by the FA, called the actions of Chelsea fans on the metro "unacceptable".

A group of supporters had also set up a fund to pay for the victim, Souleymane S, to attend a Chelsea game, and the club intended to write to him and invite him to the return leg. In an interview, Souleymane S said he wouldn't be taking up the offer. "I appreciate Mr Mourinho's invitation, but I can't get my head around being in a stadium at the moment," he added.

The supporters within the ground delivered similar anti-racism messages - a reminder that the club had moved a long way from the days when it contained a vocal racist element among their supporters. "Black or white, we're all blue," a banner at the Shed End said, while another A4 sheet stated clearly: "No Racism at the Bridge - That's the way we like it."

Chelsea and its supporters could hardly have done much more. Reasonable people will accept that what happened on Tuesday night could happen at any club, but it is Chelsea who will have to deal with the consequences, especially as it emerged that London police were investigating racist chanting at St Pancras station by men said to be Chelsea fans returning from the game on Wednesday night, the day after the match in Paris.

Burnley started positively, but they weren't able to create as much as they had at Old Trafford, even if Chelsea were not at their best. New signing Juan Cuadrado had a mixed afternoon. At times, he showed his potential, but there were moments when he seemed out of sync. Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal had tipped over a Cuadrado header early on but Sean Dyche's side dominated the early stages.

It didn't mean much, though, when they contributed so heavily to Chelsea's goal. Burnley wasted several opportunities to clear the ball, but when they failed to do so, Eden Hazard picked it up on right wing and drove into the box, skipping by the reluctant challenges from Burnley defenders. His cross found Ivanovic, who tapped in for his sixth goal of the season.

The game struggled to improve on that moment, even if the Matic sending-off allowed Burnley to push forward in the final minutes.

In the first half, Chelsea felt they should have had at least one penalty when an Ivanovic shot was blocked by Michael Kightly's arm, and then Michael Keane wrestled with Diego Costa. Beyond that, they had been unimpressive, with Cesc Fabregas peripheral.

The second half appeared to be unfolding in a predictable way as Chelsea held firm and looked for a second. But then Ashley Barnes, who troubled Thibaut Courtois with a couple of shots, went in dangerously on Matic. His reaction was explosive. He threw Barnes to the ground and, even as referee Martin Atkinson got involved and attempted to show him a red card, continued to try and reach Barnes. He eventually calmed down and headed for the tunnel. Chelsea's first defeat of the season came when Matic was missing at Newcastle and he will be absent for the League Cup final next weekend. Chelsea retreated, and when Burnley won a corner nine minutes from the end, Ben Mee headed in an equaliser.

Burnley could have won it in the final minutes when Danny Ings broke free, but he cut back inside Ramires and sent his shot over the bar.

It could have been worse for Chelsea, but Jose Mourinho is unlikely to see it that way.

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