Chelsea 2 Burnley 0: Cesar Azpilicueta scores first goal of Thomas Tuchel era and Marcos Alonso nets on return to team
CESAR AZPILICUETA and Marcos Alonso earned Thomas Tuchel a first victory as Chelsea boss – and struck a blow for the club’s re-emerging old guard.
The club captain thumped home a 40th-minute opener and Alonso hammered a delicious late second as the dominant Blues rendered an in-form Burnley completely toothless to record only their second Premier League win since Christmas.
While Chelsea were rarely dazzling, they controlled the match from start to finish, moving up to seventh in the table before Tuchel gets his first ‘big-six’ test at Tottenham on Thursday.
These are early days for Tuchel – named as Frank Lampard’s successor less than a week ago – but there has been a definite shift away from young British players to more experienced imports.
The German’s decision to replace England left-back Ben Chilwell with Alonso was the most surprising here – but it paid off.
There was still no league goal for Timo Werner – a man Tuchel admits is struggling for confidence – but other than that, this was a highly satisfactory day for the new Stamford Bridge boss.
Given that Chelsea had won just twice in nine Premier League games, and Burnley had chalked up five victories during that same stretch, this was never going to be a ‘gimme’ for Tuchel.
As he feels his way into the job and weighs up a squad with plenty of strength in depth, he made four changes to the side held by Wolves on his opening night – Werner coming in along with Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Alonso.
Having plumped for Jorginho, not a regular under Lampard, and Toni Rudiger, who had been frozen out for months by the former boss, Tuchel is clearly keen to give every one of his new charges an opportunity.
But Alonso, not seen since he was dragged off at half-time with Chelsea 3-0 down at West Brom in September, was still a surprise inclusion.
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Yet the Spaniard is a title-winning wing-back and still only 30 and he proved his class here.
Alonso combined with Werner to create Chelsea’s first opening – a curling shot from Mount which went well over.
Callum Hudson-Odoi had an effort deflected over from a Mateo Kovacic pass and Werner managed to get a shot away, although it was comfortably saved by Nick Pope.
Burnley were Burnleying away in their no-frills 4-4-2, all effort and organisation but with little to fire the imagination.
As Chelsea probed away in search of that first goal under Tuchel, there was an embarrassing moment as Abraham and Mount collided going for the same ball, trying to get on the end of an Alonso knock-down.
Werner scuffed at a shot but the German showed good movement to tee up Mount, who skied another shot.
Just as Chelsea were beginning to look frustrated, they broke the deadlock four minutes before the interval.
Mount found Hudson-Odoi, who slipped a pass out to Azpilicueta, the skipper ramming home at angle, with Pope surely feeling he might have done better.
Alonso was soon on the end of a tongue lashing from the Burnley bench, Dyche and his assistant Ian Woan enraged and a shout that the Spaniard had ‘f***ing squealed’ to win a free-kick.
Dyche is like a stuck record on this issue but he has a point – there is too much of the high-pitched exaggerations through the league, amplified by the closed-doors era.
Tuchel then performed an angry jig when a Werner pass went astray.
And, despite Chelsea’s dominance and their half-time lead, he hauled off Abraham in favour of Chrsitian Pulisic, moving Werner to centre-forward.
Hudson-Odoi soon centred to Werner but his near-post header was straight at Pope.
Then Hudson-Odoi cut in and crashed a shot against the post, via a deflection off Erik Pieters.
Ashley Westwood was booked courtesy of a theatrical tumble from Jorginho – ‘you’re f***ing alright though, aren’t you?’ the Burnley midfielder told the Chelsea man.
After Dyche had sent on Jay Rodriguez for Matej Vydra, his other forward, Chris Wood, limped off and was replaced by Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
A Hudson-Odoi cross was almost turned in by Clarets skipper Ben Mee before Mount whistled a shot just wide.
Then Pulisic screwed a shot wide from another Hudson-Odoi centre before the impressive wing-back was replaced by Reece James, who soon had a deflected shot saved by the feet of Pope.
The killer second finally arrived on 84 minutes when Alonso collected a chipped pass from Pulisic – then scored with a chest, knee, a swivel and volley into the roof of the net.
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