Chelsea were unable to capitalise on the mistakes made by their top-four rivals as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.
All four goals came in the first 25 minutes and it was the Blues who saw themselves go behind after a wonder strike from Jeff Hendrick. N’Golo Kante and Gonzalo Higuain led the instant comeback to put their side in front but Ashley Barnes’ equaliser was enough to ensure the teams would share a point each.
Injuries to Kante and Callum Hudson-Odoi added to the disappointment with the latter immediately being ruled out for the remainder of the season.
The hosts were ultimately unable to break down a strong wall of visiting defenders in the second half despite Maurizio Sarri fielding a team that excited the majority of Chelsea supporters.
Higuain’s place in the starting XI was reinstated and he almost repaid the faith of his manager within minutes of kick-off but his delicate lob was cleared off the line by Ben Mee. But even though the home side looked the better of the teams in the opening stages, they were stunned inside 10 minutes.
Dwight McNeil’s inswinging corner was headed out to the edge of the penalty area by Cesar Azpilicueta where Hendrick was well placed to send a dipping volley into the bottom corner to give his side an unlikely lead.
That lead lasted just four minutes however as the Blues were soon back on level terms through their newfound attacking midfielder. Eden Hazard twisted and turned down the left wing and made his way to the byline before pulling the ball back towards N’Golo Kante who lashed a left-footed effort into the back of the net for his fourth Premier League goal of the campaign.
The Europa League semi-finalists were not messing about and were in front less than 90 seconds later thanks to a bullet of a strike from Higuain who did brilliantly well to get past Mee, exchange a one-two with Azpilicueta and then send a rocket past Tom Heaton off the underside of the crossbar from a tough angle. The strength of the goal net would have been seriously tested had the woodwork not taken the majority of the power off the shot.
But just after Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was left out on Thursday night, missed a chance to double the lead, Burnley were level through Barnes. It came from the Blues’ inability to defend a set-piece once again as the ex Austria Under-20 international ran onto Chris Wood’s flick on completely unmarked to turn the ball into the roof of the net with just his side’s second shot of the game.
Hazard and then Higuain came close to instantly replying but neither could direct their efforts on target as the game reached its halfway point.
Following his assist for the equaliser, Wood had a great chance to re-established the visitors’ lead after the break but he was unable to sort his feet out and although it was dealt with by Andreas Christensen, the lack of intensity was met by widespread groans from the home supporters.
A barrage of Chelsea attacks followed but Mee and James Tarkowski were terrific at blocking and clearing everything that came their way, limiting their opponents to very few chances, one of which that had presented itself to Azpilicueta was comfortably stopped by Heaton.
That lack of creativity in the final third ultimately cost the hosts a vital three points and the game finished with some quite unsavoury scenes between members of Burnley staff and representatives of Chelsea, including the injured Antonio Rudiger.
The Blues have moved back into 4th position but with the other three competing sides having a game-in-hand, it certainly seems like two points dropped more than one gained.