Christian Pulisic’s hat-trick fires potent Chelsea to seventh consecutive victory

The Guardian Sports 1 month ago

If it was a magnificent seventh for Frank Lampard, it was a glorious start for Christian Pulisic. Chelsea turned a potentially tricky trip to Burnley into a rout to give their rookie manager a seventh straight win, taking them level on points with Leicester. But if the transformation of an ageing team had been propelled by homegrown youngsters, a trip to Turf Moor was a sweet affair for the 21-year-old. Pulisic’s first Chelsea goals were a perfect hat-trick, in more ways than one, scored with his left foot, his right and his head, and capped a stunning display.

Upstaged by Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, Pulisic has been Chelsea’s expensive afterthought. There have been times in the last couple of months when he has failed to even get on the bench but Lampard granted him a first league start since August, with Callum Hudson-Odoi demoted to the bench. If it was a reward for the American’s catalytic cameo against Ajax on Wednesday, it was soon justified. Pulisic opened his Chelsea account with a goal that was all his own making. In different ways, he exposed three of the Burnley back four. He was sharp enough to catch Matt Lowton dawdling in possession and surge away. He had the skill to dart past James Tarkowski and his angled shot went through Ben Mee’s legs.

Even before then, Pulisic had begun promisingly. He fashioned Chelsea’s first opening with a bright burst infield and a pass to Mount, whose shot was blocked by Erik Pieters. It was little surprise that he doubled his tally, either. He had already threatened to do so when he escaped Lowton’s attentions to unleash a low half-volley that Nick Pope saved before Tarkowski got in the way of another effort from the American. When Tarkowski gave the ball away, however, there was no reprieve for Burnley. Pulisic surged into space and while a sliding Mee applied a touch to his low shot, he only succeeded in diverting it past Pope.

Pulisic had shown he could be more than just scorer. He illustrated his repertoire with a cross-field ball that Willian met with a cushioned volley. Pope held it but it was a sign that Burnley were struggling to contain Chelsea.

Minus the hamstrung Chris Wood, Burnley had nevertheless begun in upbeat fashion and mounted a spirited response to going behind. Dwight McNeil skipped past César Azpilicueta at will at times as Lowton was not the only right-back to endure some difficulties. Barnes misjudged two close-range efforts when first Tarkowski and then Mee set him up with headers across the face of goal while Pieters, with a crisp half-volley, drew a fine save from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Burnley’s wins in the league have all come at Turf Moor and they had kept a clean sheet in each. Chasing a game presented a different challenge and Sean Dyche’s team adopted a familiar ploy as they started the second half with a flurry of crosses. A more imaginative approach came from Jack Cork, another product of Chelsea’s prolific academy, with a chipped through ball but Barnes once again failed to find a finishing touch, scuffing his shot.

Jay Rodriguez, starting a top-flight game at Turf Moor for his hometown club for the first time, at least connected better with a drive that Arrizabalaga held while Willian was booked for hauling back the influential McNeil.

Yet one attack sufficed for Chelsea to treble their lead. If it felt inevitable that Pulisic was the scorer, the method was more surprising as he rose to meet Mount’s cross with a glancing header. Chelsea’s ruthlessness was apparent again as they picked Burnley off on the counter-attack, Abraham releasing Willian, who drilled in a fourth goal.

With the game won, Lampard took the chance to bring on Hudson-Odoi. If the rested winger felt he had a point to prove, he went about it the wrong way. He flung himself to the ground in the box with referee Michael Oliver penalising Tarkowski. When the decision went to VAR, it was shown the substitute had dived.

The decision was reversed and he was booked. Burnley’s Rodriguez then scored a spectacular consolation goal and McNeil added another. Burnley were roused but ran out of time.

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