Burnley 2, Chelsea 4 - Chris Boden’s match verdict

Dwight McNeil
Dwight McNeil

Burnley’s defence under Sean Dyche has often resembled an indestructible shield, much like Captain America’s trademark.

But, faced by the man who gets his nickname from Marvel Comics’ patriotic super solider, the Clarets were their own worst enemy.

The Clarets gifted USA international skipper Christian Pulisic his first Premier League goals since moving from Borussia Dortmund for £58m - his first senior hat-trick - while at the other end, they squandered a number of gilt-edged chances before a late fight back gave the scoreline a more realistic look at 4-2.

Unusually for Burnley, who have only lost to established Big Six, or sides in the top four, so far this season, against the big hitters they have not been their resilient best.

After possession was given up at Arsenal, the Gunners took full advantage to score a winner, while a freak goal was followed by a sloppy second to gift Liverpool the points at Turf Moor.

And Saturday night was another case in point. Matt Lowton was caught napping by Pulisic for the first, who, despite being stood up by James Tarkowski, found a yard and drilled past Nick Pope through Ben Mee’s legs.

The 21-year-old then capitalised after Willian seized on an ambitious Tarkowski pass, as he raced towards goal and saw his shot deflected in off Mee.

Despite being more than competitive, Burnley went in 2-0 down at half-time, effectively game over against a side of Chelsea’s quality.

But the Clarets were just as guilty at the other end.

Ashley Barnes, often so deadly against the Big Six, headed a big chance across goal after the outstanding Dwight McNeil‘s corner was headed back across goal at the far post by Tarkowski.

Kepa Arrizabalaga then produced a remarkable save to keep out a deflected half volley from Erik Pieters, before Barnes somehow headed wide as Mee nodded an Ashley Westwood free kick across goal.

He smashed over a more difficult chance on his left foot, after a lovely pick out from McNeil, but Pulisic wasn’t as profligate at the other end.

Burnley started the second half well, but a killer third from Pulisic, glancing in a Mason Mount cross after a recycled corner, before Willian’s step over and drilled shot beat Pieters and then Pope, put the game beyond doubt.

The Clarets responded well, and Jay Rodriguez broke clear after a neat one two with Barnes, only for Fikori Tomori to make a superb intervention, before sub Reece James blocked from Westwood and McNeil.

Burnley netted twice late on to give the crowd some cheer, after a dive from Callum Hudson-Odoi was rightly punished by VAR with a yellow card, after referee Michael Oliver initially awarded a penalty.

Rodriguez cut across the ball from 25 yards after swapping passes with Robbie Brady and flashed a superb effort past Arrizabalaga, before McNeil’s effort deflected in off Tomori.

Burnley can be pleased that they created so many golden chances, so often so hard to come by against the big guns, but, even with the caveat that the elite can rack up the goals against anyone, it seems the more chances the Clarets create against the Big Six, the more open they are defensively.

It’s getting the balance right, which Sean Dyche has usually achieved more often than not.

But the perception of Burnley being a difficult obstacle for the top sides is beginning to be dismantled.

While Burnley have enjoyed a number of great results, the Clarets have won just six of their 63 Premier League games against the Big Six, while, since returning to the top flight in 2016, they have 25 wins from 43 against the rest.

At one stage, Saturday night looked like it would be a repeat of last season’s home fixture with Chelsea a year ago, despite a considerably better display, with Burnley in far better shape than they were in 2018.

It remains a concern, however, that, despite learning so many lessons from the first half of last term, they are still making costly errors and not making the top sides work hard enough for their goals.

There has been much encouragement so far this season, however, and one of the positives continues to be McNeil.

The 19-year-old looked completely at home in such esteemed company again on Saturday, and he continues to grow into a wonderfully gifted player, the likes the club’s academy hasn’t seen since the days of Trevor Steven.

Hopefully we get the chance to continue to watch him develop at Turf Moor, but it appears certain his future lies with one of the elite, whether at home or abroad.

Let’s enjoy him while we can.

And a word for Jay Rodriguez, who, while he has found regular football hard to come by, now has three goals from three starts since returning to the club, and has just one fewer than top scorers and first choice strike partnership Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood.

The way he took his goal against Chelsea - the audacity, technique and sheer force with which he beat a top goalkeeper - could only be admired.

A top professional, he has got his head down and waited for his opportunities, and he is showing the quality we all know he has in abundance.