Flawed character he may be, but for all the unwanted publicity down the years surrounding him and his ill-starred family, John Terry has never allowed his football to be affected. Apparently oblivious to all the fuss that followed the latest unsavoury allegations about his private life, he not only strolled through yesterday's game but even had the audacity and sense of drama to win it for Chelsea with a powerful late header.
The recently prolific Nicolas Anelka, surviving quite happily without Didier Drogba, had earlier scored his 12th goal of the season before a lapse by Alex allowed Burnley a first goal in four games under Brian Laws. The new manager felt his team showed the leaders too much respect before half-time and was pleased with their efforts. Overall, however, the feeling was always that Chelsea had at least one more gear to move into and the surprise was that they left it so late.
Carlo Ancelotti would have been entitled to displeasure had they not accelerated to a first away win in the League since the decisive 3-0 success at the Emirates in November. Now he and his squad can sit back and watch Arsenal and Manchester United – five and four points behind them respectively from the same number of games – do their worst today. "We played well in the second half and deserved the win," Ancelotti said. "John Terry is a fantastic player. Tonight he did very well. So I'm not worried. I don't want to talk about his personal life. I think everyone at the club supports him and his family."
There was no doubt about who was the centre of attention from the moment Chelsea's bus pulled into Turf Moor, with club officials declaring that Terry's problems were a private matter. He can only hope that Fabio Capello takes the same view. His name was greeted with raucous guffaws when the teams were announced, and boos at every touch later on, culminating in a yellow card when he put a foot – and an arm – wrong for the only time in the evening, blatantly blocking Robbie Blake.
Laws, welcomed on to the pitch for his first home game since succeeding the now reviled Owen Coyle, had brought Blake back to support Steven Fletcher. That pair would eventually conjure up the equalising goal, although that was almost the first time Chelsea's defence was disturbed.
For the first quarter of the game neither side had a shot on target. Indeed, as Anelka miskicked altogether when set up by Joe Cole, there was only one attempt on goal all told, which Frank Lampard sent into the stand housing Chelsea's subdued followers. Team and supporters came alive at last in the 26th minute. Petr Cech threw the ball out to Joe Cole who made good ground from inside his own half before chipping a diagonal pass just over Tyrone Mears' head for Florent Malouda. A simple low cross found Anelka criminally unmarked by either of the centre-halves and able to knock in his sixth goal in as many games.
So, as in their Lancashire sojourn last week, for the FA Cup tie at Preston, Chelsea went in leading at half-time without having exerted themselves. On that occasion they were able to add to the advantage immediately, killing the game with a second goal. Had Malouda's fierce drive a minute after the interval been a foot lower, local history would have repeated itself. Instead there was a price to pay as it was the opposition who scored. Blake knocked forward a pass that Fletcher touched first, still allowing Alex the chance to clear. The big defender failed to connect and Fletcher was able to reach double figures for the season with a smart finish.
Again the leaders roused themselves. Brian Jensen, rushing from his goal with no hope of reaching the ball, was lucky that when Anelka crossed and Malouda nodded on, Joe Cole had wandered offside before heading in. The goalkeeper did better in parrying Lampard's free-kick low down by a post. Terry, impressively solid, even joined the attack himself after one forceful interception, as did Ashley Cole, who was injured in the attempt and had to be replaced by Deco.
The captain would not be denied. He met Lampard's corner with a fine downward header inside a post that Burnley had foolishly left unguarded. At the final whistle, Chelsea supporters chanted Terry's name as Cech raced from goal to embrace him. Any team-mates concerned, as has been suggested, by his conduct knew whom they had thank for another win bonus.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Terry
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content