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English Premier League

Burnley stun nine-man Chelsea, Huddersfield go top

Reds display their frailties as they share the points in a shaky start at Vicarage Road, while the champions suffer a stunning 3-2 defeat by Burnley at Stamford Bridge

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 10:11pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 August, 2017, 12:19am

Sam Vokes scored twice as Burnley torpedoed defending champions Chelsea 3-2 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in one of the most sensational opening-weekend results in English top flight history.

Chelsea had captain Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas sent off and Burnley took full advantage through Vokes’s brace and a superb Stephen Ward effort, with goals from Alvaro Morata and David Luiz coming in vain.

Leicester City lost 2-1 at Hull City on the first day last season, but given the unexpected nature of their title win, this was the biggest opening-day shock since Aston Villa’s 3-1 win over Manchester United in 1995.

Huddersfield Town marked their top flight return with a remarkable 3-0 win at Crystal Palace that sent them top of the table, while Wayne Rooney bagged the winner on his Everton comeback in a 1-0 victory over Stoke City.

Burnley’s win, their first at Chelsea since 1971, further blackened the mood around Stamford Bridge after a close season during which manager Antonio Conte has grown frustrated by his side’s lack of transfer activity.

Conte was without the injured Eden Hazard and out-of-favour striker Diego Costa and started with £58 million (HK$585 million) signing Morata on the bench.

Youth-team graduate Jeremie Boga made his debut, but was hauled off in the reshuffle that followed Cahill’s 14th-minute dismissal for a reckless, studs-up foul on Steven Defour.

Vokes put Burnley ahead in the 24th minute, volleying in from Matthew Lowton’s cross.

Ward doubled the visitors’ advantage in the 39th minute with a blistering left-foot strike from Jack Cork’s lofted pass and Vokes added a third before half-time, heading in Defour’s cross.

Half-time substitute Morata and Luiz reduced the arrears in the second half, either side of Fabregas’s 81st-minute dismissal for a second yellow card, but Burnley hung on for a famous victory.

Earlier, Liverpool conceded in second-half injury time to draw 3-3 at Watford as the team’s defensive frailties flared in their first game of the Premier League season on Saturday.

Scoring goals wasn’t a problem for Liverpool at Vicarage Road despite the absence of unsettled playmaker Philippe Coutinho but the visitors couldn’t keep them out either, showing lessons haven’t been learnt from last season.

Having already conceded two soft goals in the first half, Liverpool failed to deal with a near-post corner in the fourth minute of injury time. Richarlison fired in a shot from an acute angle that goalkeeper Simon Mignolet parried onto the crossbar, and Miguel Britos headed over the line from less than a metre out.

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was left fuming after being denied a winning start.

“We were unlucky in the end. The equaliser was offside. It’s obvious because the linesman is on the line. He needs to see it,” Klopp said.

“I cannot change it. We would have had defensive areas we need to work on even if we’d won 3-2, but we were the better team. We should have won.”

It looked like Mo Salah was going to be the match-winner for Liverpool on his competitive debut, with the club’s record signing – for an initial 42 million euros (HK$363 million) – bundling in a close-range finish to give the visitors the lead for the first time in the 57th. Two minutes earlier, Salah earned a penalty that was dispatched by Roberto Firmino.

Watford striker Stefano Okaka was unmarked when he headed in from close range from a corner in the eighth minute for the opening goal of a frenetic game.

Sadio Mane ran onto Emre Can’s flick to curl home an equaliser in the 29th, only for Watford to carve open Liverpool’s back line following a throw-in inside three minutes and take the lead through Abdoulaye Doucoure.

Great things are expected of Liverpool’s exciting front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane – all were on the scoresheet – but it remains to be seen if they will be complemented by Coutinho this season.

The Brazil international was missing with a back injury, according to Liverpool, although he might not have been in the right frame of mind to play anyway after handing in a transfer request on Friday in light of interest in the playmaker from Barcelona.

Liverpool’s American owners said Friday that the club would not accept any bids for Coutinho in this transfer window, having already rejected two offers from Barca. Coutinho requested to leave the club in an email hours later.

Additional reporting Agence France-Presse