LONDON • There are title defences. And then there are Chelsea title defences.
As an exercise in exploring just how quickly a steamrollering champion team can be reduced to a frazzled, meandering rabble, Chelsea's opening half of the season yesterday against Burnley at Stamford Bridge is likely to take some beating.
A red card for the captain, Gary Cahill, on 13 minutes was followed by goals from Sam Vokes, Steven Ward and Vokes again as Burnley produced a performance as controlled and purposeful as Chelsea were flaccid.
Reduced to 10 men and 0-3 down at the break against a team they had not lost to since 1971, Chelsea did rouse themselves in the second half, playing with real vigour to push Burnley back.
Hopes were raised after a goal from the substitute Alvaro Morata, before Cesc Fabregas was also sent off for a second yellow card for a lunging challenge.
David Luiz pulled back another to make it 2-3 and draw a roar of defiance around the Bridge. But Burnley hung on for a famous victory.
Really this was a disastrous start for the champions, an opening-day 3-2 defeat that some will suggest came heavily trailed.
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It is no secret there has been discontent around the place, not least friction between manager and club hierarchy.
The Chelsea team sheet did have an air of points being made, shoulders shrugged towards the directors' tier.
Jeremie Boga made his debut in midfield, nine years after joining the club as an 11-year-old and moving with his family from Marseille to New Maldon.
Watford 3 Liverpool 3
Chelsea 2 Burnley 3
Crystal Palace 0 Huddersfield 3
Everton 1 Stoke 0
Southampton 0 Swansea 0
West Brom 1 Bournemouth 0
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Antonio Rudiger played on the left of the central three in defence. Michy Batshuayi led the attack.
Leicester City lost 1-2 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.
At Goodison Park, the moment Wayne Rooney craved, the reason he came home to Everton, arrived on the stroke of half-time.
With his sons looking on, the 31-year-old marked his return to his boyhood club with a fine winning goal against Stoke City as Ronald Koeman's new-look team opened the season with a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
An ugly game was elevated by Rooney's romantic script.
England's all-time leading scorer struck with a thumping header and produced a fine second-half performance to ease himself back into the old routine in royal blue.
Rooney's 199th Premier League goal was also his first for Everton since April 2004, not that he has endured a 13-year drought of course, and he was one of several impressive debutants in Koeman's side.
The most expensive British goalkeeper in history, £30 million (S$52.8 million) Jordan Pickford, produced an excellent save to prevent Xherdan Shaqiri equalising with a 25m bullet in stoppage time.
After a 45-year absence, Huddersfield Town strode back into the top flight of English football and immediately served notice of their intention to stick around, despite their widespread billing as certainties for relegation.
David Wagner's team played with vibrancy and savviness as they celebrated their return to the big time with a deserved 3-0 victory at Selhurst Park.
Record signing Steve Mounie, the Benin striker from Montpellier, scored once in each half after Palace's Joel Ward put through his own goal.
It was Palace who, in their first match under the tutelage of Frank de Boer, resembled Premier League impostors.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS