Goalscorers: Sam Vokes 24, 43, Stephen Ward 39, Alvaro Morata 69, David Luiz 88
Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Gary Cahill (SENT OFF), David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas (SENT OFF), Jerome Boga (Andreas Christensen 18), (Charly Musonda 90), Willian, Michy Batshuayi (Alvaro Morata 59)
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Ben Mee, Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Jack Cork, Steven Defour (Jon Walters 75), Jeff Hendrick, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes
Referee: Craig Pawson, Attendance: 41,616
Reigning champions Chelsea were once again expected to be among the frontrunners for the Premier League title in 2017-2018. On the opening weekend of the season, Antonio Conte’s side faced Burnley, who were starting their fourth Premier League campaign. On their three previous visits to Stamford Bridge, the Clarets had conceded seven goals. So, they were considered major outsiders.
However, the champions imploded in a spectacular first 45 minutes which was to be the story of their season. The first sign of trouble for the hosts came after just 14 minutes when referee Craig Pawson dished out a straight red card to Chelsea skipper Gary Cahill. Cahill, who had taken on the role on a full-time basis following John Terry’s summer departure, made a lunging two-footed tackle on Burnley midfielder Steven Defour. It was classed as dangerous play by Pawson and Cahill could have few complaints. This meant Jerome Boga’s shock debut was over too, sacrificed to make way for defensive centre-back Andreas Christensen.
Nine minutes later, Burnley fully capitalised on the extra man advantage as Sam Vokes fired the visitors ahead with a volley beyond Thibaut Courtois. It would get worse for a stunned home faithful. Six minutes before half-time, Burnley put together a brilliant team move which led to their second goal. It was left-back Stephen Ward who finished the move off, firing an angled drive beyond Courtois’ despairing dive. Incredibly, it was 3-0 just four minutes later. A flying header from Vokes continued his red-hot streak and put Burnley fans into dreamland. The Welshman had now scored seven goals in his last six Premier League matches dating back to the end of the previous season. The scoreline was even more spectacular considering Burnley had won just one away match in the whole of the previous campaign and that had been at the end of April at Crystal Palace.
Conte looked a pale shadow of the energetic character Chelsea fans had seen on the touchline during his debut Premier League season and he urgently needed a reaction from his misfiring players in the second half. The belated arrival of Alvaro Morata in the 59th minute was the galvanising factor in their second half improvement. 10 minutes after his arrival, the Spaniard, who had joined from Real Madrid, had his first goal for his new employers, heading home from close-range.
Any hopes of Chelsea salvaging something from the contest were as good as over when Cesc Fabregas added to Conte’s headaches. Booked needlessly for dissent in the first half, the Spaniard’s clumsy challenge on Jack Cork with nine minutes left to play saw him heading for an early shower and reduced Chelsea to nine men.
David Luiz did pull another goal back just before stoppage-time but it was too little, too late. Burnley held on for a famous victory. Sean Dyche’s side were one of the success stories of the season and will be playing in UEFA Europa League qualifying later this week as a reward for their seventh-place finish. Chelsea’s fifth-place league result was very disappointing and Conte was sacked in July 2018.