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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Tuchel claims first win as Chelsea manager


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Emphatic finishes from Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso gave Thomas Tuchel his first victory as Chelsea head coach against a below-par Burnley.

Captain Azpilicueta – the longest-serving player in the team – drilled Callum Hudson-Odoi’s lay-off high past Nick Pope just before half-time in the Premier League encounter at Stamford Azpilicueta’s fellow Spanish defender Alonso added a classy second late on, skilfully controlling a Christian Pulisic cross before lashing a volley over Pope at his near post.

The impressive Hudson-Odoi was unlucky not to score in between with a shot that was deflected on to a post by Burnley defender Erik Pieters.

Chelsea comfortably registered a second successive clean sheet under Tuchel, whose first game was the midweek goalless draw with Wolves, as Burnley did not manage a shot on target.

The only downside for Tuchel was Timo Werner’s failure to score for a 12th league game as Chelsea climbed three places to seventh in the table, while Burnley remain 15th.

No players in Tuchel’s starting line-up have been at Chelsea longer than Azpilicueta, a 2012 signing from Marseille, and Alonso, who arrived four years later from Fiorentina.

It was strangely fitting that an Azpilicueta goal should christen the Tuchel era given he was the only member of Chelsea’s current crop to play alongside predecessor Frank Lampard as well as under him.

Azpilicueta’s goal was reminiscent of Lampard’s habit of appearing in the penalty area at the right time, crowning a flowing break by overlapping Hudson-Odoi and firing into the roof of the net.

It was Azpilicueta’s first goal in more than a year and, while Alonso’s effort was not quite as surprising given his propensity to find the net, his mere inclusion in Tuchel’s side was an eye-opener given he had not played for more than four months.

Recalled in place of Ben Chilwell, Alonso produced a superb piece of skill, chesting down Pulisic’s centre and taking another touch on his knee before unleashing a powerful volley.

The finish gave the scoreline a fairer slant with Chelsea dominant, attempting 19 shots to Burnley’s one, and Hudson-Odoi a menace throughout.

Chelsea remain three places and four points off the Champions League spots but this display – against a Burnley side that had been in fine form – will give Tuchel belief that the gap can be bridged.

For the majority of the first half, the game had the feeling of Burnley’s memorable recent win at Liverpool, when they frustrated their hosts for long periods and pinched a late winner.

Until Azpilicueta’s opener Pope was troubled only by a couple of routine long-range efforts from an increasingly desperate Werner.

But once Burnley went behind they did not have an answer and were not helped by the withdrawal though injury of leading scorer Chris Wood just after the hour.

James Tarkowski’s stoppage-time header from a corner was the sum total of their efforts, and even that failed to hit the target as Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy remained a spectator.

Successive wins – at Anfield and at home to Aston Villa – lifted Burnley eight points clear of the relegation zone and suggest this meek display should be a one-off.

However, any lengthy absence for Wood would worry manager Sean Dyche given his side remain the second lowest scorers in the division with 13 goals as they drew a blank for the 11th time in 20 games.

They were indebted to England keeper Pope for limiting the margin of defeat, denying Reece James, Werner and Pulisic in the second half as well as preventing Ben Mee turning a Hudson-Odoi cross into his own net.

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