If this is anti-football, let’s have more of the same! - Chris Boden’s verdict on Burnley’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea

If this is anti-football, I imagine Burnley fans would lap it up every week without fail.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 3:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 4:14 pm
Ashley Barnes scores the equaliser at Stamford Bridge

With no sense of irony, Chelsea’s frustrated Brazilian centre back David Luiz said: “It’s difficult when you play against a team who have two chances and score two goals and didn’t want to play the game.

“It’s anti-football. Wasting time all the time, especially when you have the ball. Their players went to the floor and stopped the game.

“They were playing 11 players inside the box. It’s difficult to score against a team like that.”

Luiz was part of the Chelsea team which won the Champions League Final in 2012, producing a display not too dissimilar against Bayern Munich, losing the shot count 35-9, and the corner count 20-1.

The one corner Chelsea won? Headed in by Didier Drogba to take the game to extra time, and, ultimately, penalties, where the Blues triumphed.

They produced a similar performance to see off Barcelona in the semi-final.

But when the boot was on the other foot? Luiz and his teammates didn’t like it one bit.

Sean Dyche spoke before the game about how he felt Burnley’s strong jaw was back.

And his players emphasised the point with a backs to the wall performance, which impressed Martin Keown sufficiently to proclaim:” I don’t think you will see a better defensive display than the one we saw from Burnley at Stamford Bridge. This was a monumental performance from Sean Dyche’s players.”

While Burnley did what Burnley do under Dyche - defended the box, made blocks, interceptions, challenges, won headers and kept Tom Heaton well protected on the whole - people conveniently forget that you also have to provide a threat.

Dyche was knocked from all sides for thinking he could play two strikers as the Clarets were relegated in 2015.

He has proved not only that you can, but the Clarets are at their very best - and capable of amassing Premier League points at an impressive rate - when they do.

On Monday night, they scored twice - more than Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs managed between them at Stamford Bridge this season.

And in Ashley Barnes, they have a striker who has the knack against the big six.

His goal here to level things up at 2-2 means he is the only player this season to score against Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs and Chelsea, and he boasts other goals for the club against City and Liverpool in recent seasons.

Barnes, more than any other Burnley player, managed to get under the skin of Chelsea - whose supporters idolised the similarly abrasive Diego Costa, and, showing my age, David Speedie - getting Luiz and substitute Mateo Kovacic into a lather.

But no one can knock his record at this level - his 11th goal of the season matching Danny Ings as the most a Burnley player has scored in a Premier League campaign.

Luiz, whose first half dive in front of Dyche under the faintest of touches from Chris Wood was the biggest affront to the sport all night, was aggrieved by what he felt was Burnley time-wasting.

Tom Heaton was rather ridiculously booked half an hour in for taking his time with goal kicks, but it is merely a sign of the side’s growing intelligence and game management at this level.

As Dyche said, you can’t anti-football your way to 28 points from 16 games.

Burnley deserve far more credit than they receive for the achievements, and Chelsea know as well as anyone among the elite how capable they are, having claimed two draws and a win at Stamford Bridge in their last four visits - and that’s not even taking into account their League Cup win here 10 seasons ago as a Championship side.

The way Burnley took the sting out of the game, how they were organised, the clinical manner in which they took their chances, bore all the hallmarks of the side which finished seventh last season.

And their form over the second half of the campaign gives real confidence and hope they can continue to thrive at this level next season.