Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table cut be cut to eight points by Monday night after failing to see off a stubborn Burnley side at Turf Moor.
The visitors lead at the top of the table currently stands at 10 points, and looked to be heading to 12 after Pedro broke the deadlock early on, but Brady’s expect free-kick cut it back down to 10, and should Manchester City beat Bournemouth on Monday evening, the race could intensify with 13 games left.
Little wonder why Antonio Conte was frantically trying to secure all three points, throwing on Fabregas and Willian with still 20 minutes left in place of Moses and Matic, but neither they, nor Batshuayi who later joined the fray, could see the Blues through.
In truth it was no more than they deserved, as a dogged Burnley outfit show again why they are well clear of this season’s relegation dogfight, as the points were shared on a cold Sunday afternoon.
In both of the Clarets’ previous Premier League seasons, Chelsea have been crowned champions. Coupled with the fact the Blues are the league’s best away side this season — and with five league wins and a draw from six Sunday games — then you would be forgiven for thinking the omens looked superb for today’s visitors.
And given Chelsea have 30 more points than they did at this stage last season, it was no surprise to see that feel-good factor in the opening quarter of an hour which brought about the game’s first goal.
Hazard found Moses in acres of space down Chelsea’s right, and after carrying the ball some 40 yards, the Nigerian laid it off to Pedro, who took one touch to wrong-foot his marker before sliding it past Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal, to record his ninth goal in all competitions for Chelseas this season, surpassing his total of eight in the last campaign.
It was a quick goal, and that was no doubt what caught Heaton off-guard, but the warning signs should have been there as Hazard has tested the goalkeeper just 60 seconds earlier.
Chelsea have scored the first goal of the game 19 times this season, more times than any other Premier League team, and have yet to lose, so the start was no surprise, but Burnley were not caving in just yet, despite never having won a Premier League encounter against Chelsea.
Or, indeed, they were to not cave in at all, for Pedro’s goal was the last shot on target Chelsea would have for the rest of the game, and that was only the seventh minute.
Ashley Barnes was causing Luiz, sporting a new tied-back ponytail, and Cahill problems, but the real peach of an equaliser came just past the mid-way point of the first half.
Matic supplied the free-kick for which Robbie Brady, with one swipe of the left foot, buried into the back of the net, beyond the outstretched arm of one of the league’s tallest goalkeepers in Courtois. It was an excellent set-piece, with Brady becoming the first player to score a direct free-kick against Chelsea in the Premier League since Rickie Lambert in March 2013.
It could have been two for the hosts just before the break had Lowton been more clinical in front of Courtois, and soon after Cahill was flying in to deny Boyd, as Burnley stepped up a gear.
It most definitely should have been two straight after the break, after a horrendous error by Luiz saw the ball find Gray, who one-on-one with Courtois focused too heavily on just hitting the target, and the Belgian’s legs did the job.
Just before that, Diego Costa looked to have worked himself some room with Marcos Alonso before he was charged down, but it was to be a quiet affair for the Spaniard, who has failed to score in three consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in 10 months.
Lowton nearly found Barnes at the other end but for a strong Luiz header away, but Chelsea were not getting anywhere themselves, unless you could speculative long-range shots from Cesar Azpilicueta.
Fabregas and Willian entered the fray early as Conte had seen enough to feel the push for a winning goal needed 20+ minutes, but they were not able to conjure up anything significant either.
Cynical fouls by Burnley did result in a few Chelsea free-kicks, but there was no clear cut opportunity as the game drew to a close.
The Blues take a break from the Premier League with next week’s encounter being in Wolverhampton for the FA Cup, before trying to return back to winning ways against Swansea the week later.
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THIBAUT COURTOIS: It was not that Chelsea had a particularly bad day, it is just no-one really stepped up their game when they needed to, and coupled with excellent Burnley tactics which often saw them revert to a back six when the Blues had the ball, it was easy to see why Chelsea could not score a winner. Instead, Burnley nearly did — twice — and so it needed smart reactions from Courtois to prevent the loss. 6/10
Conte knew the challenged he faced: “We tried to win but we know Burnley at home are not easy. They have taken 29 points at home. I think we tried to build and do our football for sure [but] Burnley tried to disrupt our play. They played long balls and the second ball is not easy. At home they are very tough. It is one point and for sure we must be disappointed. We tried to win.”
Dyche was delighted: “Chelsea are a fine side. We limited them to two shots on target and that is tough enough [but then ourselves] we made four or five really good chances. I am very pleased overall. I was super impressed with our reaction to their goal.”