Chelsea 2 Burnley 2
Maurizio Sarri was sent to the stands as Chelsea blew a big chance to stake their Champions League claim by slipping to a 2-2 Premier League draw with Burnley last night.
Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and Burnley goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer had to be separated by the officials at the final whistle, as a gripping encounter ended in ugly touchline scenes at Stamford Bridge.
David Luiz and Ashley Westwood later clashed as the teams attempted to depart via the tunnel, in a frantic west London encounter.
N’Golo Kante and Gonzalo Higuain blasted two goals in as many minutes for the Blues, but rank set-piece defending let Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Barnes plunder goals for the Clarets.
Head coach Sarri’s men did move fourth in the table courtesy of their draw, but dropping two points at home could prove costly in the Champions League race - as could worrying injuries to Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kante.
Hudson-Odoi limped out with a leg problem, while Kante picked up a back complaint.
Chelsea must face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, with only Watford at home and Leicester away to come after that.
The Blues threw everything at Burnley in the second-half but in vain, falling prey to a the rearguard graft of Sean Dyche’s team.
Eden Hazard’s 13th assist of the season, laying on the opener for Higuain, had the Blues faithful purring at their star man and Real Madrid target.
Chelsea’s supporters rightly hang on his every feint and shimmy, desperate to catch him while they can - especially when his opponents cannot.
But Chelsea could find no way through the Clarets’ regimented two banks of four after the break, and duly conceded ground in the race for Champions League qualification.
Hazard’s scooped pass for Higuain deserved more than Ben Mee’s clearance off the line, following the Argentina striker’s deft chip. Hendrick’s sweet volley handed Burnley the lead against the run of play, Chelsea failing to clear a corner.
Kante and Higuain struck two goals in as many minutes to turn the tide though, with both efforts easy on the eye.
Loftus-Cheek outmuscled Westwood, Hazard bamboozled Matthew Lowton and then Kante drilled home the leveller.
Then Higuain spun in the area, exchanged passes with Cesar Azpilicueta and rifled into the roof of the net.
But amid that general dominance the Blues switched off at another set-piece, and were duly punished again. This time Chris Wood nodded a free-kick across goal and Barnes finished well on the slide.