LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea endured a shocking start to the defence of their Premier League title on Saturday, losing 3-2 at home to Burnley, with their new captain Gary Cahill sent off after only 14 minutes and Cesc Fabregas following late on.
The champions looked down and out in the first half, going into the break 3-0 adrift but rallied in the second despite finishing with only nine players.
Chelsea looked in good form at the start, in spite of the absence through injury of key players, until Cahill lunged clumsily at Steven Defour’s shin after losing the ball high up the pitch and referee Craig Pawson was prompt with a red card.
Sam Vokes capitalised on the numerical advantage and Chelsea’s poor defending, scoring either side of a goal from team mate Stephen Ward, to send Burnley into the halftime break a worthy if unexpected 3-0 up.
Antonio Conte’s team talk clearly galvanised the champions, however, and they looked much livelier in the second half.
Newly-signed substitute Alvaro Morata got one back in the 69th minute, poking the ball in from a Willian cross and putting Burnley on the back foot.
After that it was almost all Chelsea. Morata had a goal disallowed for offside but then Fabregas was sent off, perhaps harshly, for a tackle on Jack Cork with eight minutes remaining.
Chelsea still swept forward and Defender David Luiz found the net in the 87th minute as a shell-shocked Burnley hung on.
Chelsea are expected to make new signings before the end of the transfer window with British media reporting that Conte is dissatisfied with the depth of his squad.
On Saturday they were missing Eden Hazard and Pedro through injury as well as suspended Victor Moses.
Striker Diego Costa is in dispute with the club and has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in January while key midfielder Nemanja Matic has joined Manchester United and several players have been sent out on loan.
Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Toby Davis