For all Chelsea’s allegations of time-wasting and uncivil comments from the Burnley bench during Monday’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge it was the response of defender David Luiz which was the most revealing.
“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,” he said.
Luiz went on to complain about players going down with cramp and argued that the five minutes additional time was insufficient. But let’s just digest that quote from the 32-year-old defender.
The Brazilian is objecting to the fact that Burnley scored from their two major chances. Now, leaving aside the fact that the Clarets could have had a third had Chris Wood’s touch been better and his awareness sharper, isn’t there something pretty impressive about a team getting two chances and scoring them both?
If Liverpool go to Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday and convert their only two chances in a valuable 2-2 draw, would the storyline be how little Liverpool created or how clinical they were?
Jeff Hendrick’s volley and Ashley Barnes’s reaction and finish were both top class.
Chelsea dominated the second half and the Clarets defended deep and in numbers, showing little interest in going for a late winner. That is what I suspect Luiz is objecting to – of course it would have been easier for Chelsea to win if Burnley had opened up trying to grab a shock win.
But the ‘little clubs’ aren’t supposed to stop the big clubs.
Back in 2015, the Clarets earned a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Then manager Jose Mourinho went into a 27-minute rant about a series of perceived injustices made by referee Martin Atkinson against his team.
We saw similar this season when Spurs were well beaten by Burnley at Turf Moor in one of the most complete and effective performances of the club’s Premier League era. By confronting the referee angrily at the end of the game, Mauricio Pochettino made the story about himself and Mike Dean.
Although Jurgen Klopp couldn’t resist jibes about Burnley’s tackling this season, he deserves credit after losing at Turf Moor in 2016. Liverpool utterly dominated possession but the Clarets took their two chances to win 2-0. “We had 80% possession but it (Burnley’s) is a different way to play football and it is absolutely okay,” he said.
“Usually in a game like this, we win if we don’t make the mistakes in the wrong moment, but we did and now we have to accept the result and carry on.”
Bravo. Exactly the right sort of response. If Chelsea’s multi-million pound squad had been able to break down a defence superbly marshalled by Ben Mee, they would have won, regardless of whether Burnley players got cramp or not.
The irony in Maurizio Sarri getting so upset is that the Clarets approach to the second half was reminiscent the old Italian defensive tactics of catenaccio, which literally means ‘the bolted door’.
If Chelsea’s defence had been bolted tighter they might not have been crying about two goals from two chances...
* Simon Evans is Football Correspondent for Reuters news agency. He has reported on football across Europe, including eight years covering Italy’s Serie A from Milan. He co-authored ‘The Rough Guide to European Football’ book. After 10 years covering sport in the United States, he returned to England in 2017, covering football across the country. A lifelong Burnley fan, Simon grew up in the area where he now lives again.