Chelsea fired out a warning to their Premier League title rivals with an impressive 3-1 win over Burnley at Turf Moor on Monday.
Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were brought in to much acclaim in the summer. They paid back a portion of their transfer fees with starring displays. Costa scored one; Fabergas created two as the Premier League new boys were given a lesson in how big the gulf is between the Championship and the top flight.
Chelsea fell behind early on to a Scott Arfield thunderbolt, but their greater class shone through, and goals from Costa, Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic sealed the three points.
Sean Dyche's game plan for the opening few minutes for his side would surely have been to keep things tight and simple. Clarets full-back Kieran Trippier almost threw that plan out of the window with a sloppy clearance that presented a chance to Schurrle, but his shot was deflected wide by Jason Shackell.
Costa's first shot in Premier League football arrived on 10 minutes. It wasn't the blistering drive into the top corner he would have been dreaming about; it was a scuffed shot that was blocked, but the build-up play was excellent as a drop of the shoulder took him past a Burnley defender and into space to shoot.
Burnley fans spoke positively prior to the game about their side not being overawed by the star names in the Chelsea ranks. That was demonstrated on 14 minutes when the Clarets took the lead. Thibaut Courtois won the battle with Petr Cech for the Chelsea No. 1 spot. His first act of note in Blues colours was to pick the ball out of the net.
Chelsea failed to regroup after only half-clearing a corner. The ball was delivered to Arfield at the far post, and he smashed a shot through a crowd and beyond Courtois.
Turf Moor went crazy as the Clarets were ahead against the Premier League title favourites.
The lead lasted in the region of three minutes, as it took Costa 17 minutes to open his Premier League account.
A spell of excellent passing from Chelsea stretched Burnley. A ball from wide on the right from Ivanovic went all the way across goal and hit the post. The danger was not over, as the loose ball bounced out and Costa was on hand to thunder the rebound home.
Jose Mourinho's Chelsea are favourites for the title in no small part due to the summer signings he made. Costa was one, Fabregas another.
It was Fabregas who showed his brilliance on 21 minutes. A ball was fizzed into his path by Ivanovic, who had been picked out after a mazy Eden Hazard dribble, and it looked like Fabregas was shaping to shoot.
But at the last second he changed body shape and cushioned a beautiful pass into the path of Schurrle who made no mistake with the finish.
It is only the first weekend of the Premier League season, but we have already seen a goal that could challenge for goal of the season.
Costa was the centre of attention on the half-hour mark. Latching on to a poor backpass from Ben Mee, the Spain international knocked the ball past the onrushing Tom Heaton before falling to the floor.
Replays suggested Costa had been clipped by the 'keeper and should have been awarded a penalty, but referee Michael Oliver elected to show a yellow card to the perplexed Chelsea forward.
Mourinho was deep in discussion with the fourth official when his side gave themselves a cushion. A corner from Fabregas found its way into the six-yard box and Ivanovic was there to smash home.
The joy of Cesc...Fabregas corner, Ivanovic close-range, 3-1 to #cfc. Fabregas already looking like one of the signings of the summer— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) August 18, 2014
If Mourinho had any doubts about his choice of 'keepers, he was reassured on 49 minutes as Courtois stretched out his 6'6" frame to claw away a curling effort from Arfield that was heading for the top corner.
Seconds later the giant 'keeper moved off his line with purpose and authority to gather a deep cross. On this evidence, Cech's opportunities could be extremely limited this season.
Courtois rises confidently to claim a Burnley cross. The keeper has looked unflappable so far tonight. #CFCLive— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) August 18, 2014
Burnley kept working, but the Blues were rarely tested in the final 20 minutes. It is likely to be a season of toil for Burnley, who will view anything other than relegation as a total success.
The title is in Chelsea's thoughts. and although tougher assignments will lie in wait, the early signs are positive that Mourinho has the right personnel to go the distance.
Thibaut Courtois: B
After three seasons out on loan, Courtios is now a Chelsea 'keeper. He was given the nod by Mourinho and is set for a long run in the team. He made one outstanding save, but the way he commanded his box was hugely impressive.
Cesc Fabregas: A-
Arsenal passed up the chance to bring Fabregas back to London. What is the Gunners' loss could well prove to be Chelsea's gain, as the midfielder oozed class on his first Premier League start since leaving Barcelona.
Diego Costa: B
Mourinho wanted a goalscorer and he has one in Costa. He was strong and sharp all night, got a goal his performance deserved and was harshly booked.
Chelsea captain John Terry spoke to Sky Sports after the game.
"We knew it was going to be very difficult, but I thought the football we played first half and second half, some of the movement was different class," Terry said.
"It was a difficult match, but we have seen it out well second half. ... We dropped too many points away from home last year against lesser sides, so we came here and fought very hard.
"We have made some good signings; we are hoping to win the league. That is our target. It will be tough, but we have picked up three points and move on to the next."
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