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Burnley draw despite Barnes horror-tackle


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Chelsea's lead at the top of the Premier League table was cut as Burnley's 1-1 draw was overshadowed by a diabolical display by referee Martin Atkinson.

After Branislav Ivanovic had given the hosts a deserved lead early into proceedings, the Blues were then denied a stonewall penalty by Atkinson with half-time looming.

The referee then showed Nemanja Matic a straight red card for his aggressive reaction to an absolute horror-tackle by Ashley Barnes, allowing the Clarets the foothold from which they fought back to level the match.

Atkinson failed to offer any sort of punishment to Barnes for his potential leg-breaker, and then applied the coup de grace when he failed to add to the four indicated added minutes after Ben Mee - the scorer of Burnley's equalising goal - had gone down injured for over ninety seconds in stoppage time.

Whilst Burnley deserve credit for their resolve and a gutsy performance that may well have warranted a point, José Mourinho's belief that there is a "campaign" against his side will only be strengthened by this latest refereeing debacle.

A win for Manchester City this evening will cut the Blues' lead to five points at the top of the table, but the Citizens would surely have headed into that game trailing by a margin of ten had Atkinson not bottled at least one blatant penalty award.

After Ivanovic had finished from close range following Eden Hazard's world class dribble and cross, the Blues may well have had a penalty when the Serb then had a shot blocked by the arm of Michael Kightly.

And an even better shout for a spot-kick soon followed when Diego Costa was bundled over carelessly in the penalty area by Jason Shackell on the verge of half-time; with Atkinson refusing to point to the spot to the dismay and sheer disbelief of the capacity Stamford Bridge crowd.

After the break Chelsea continued to play within themselves but exert a degree of relative control, with Diego Costa twice being a stud's length away from raking crosses from Ivanovic and Filipe Luis, but Mourinho's men - clearly suffering something of a European hangover following Wednesday's trip to Paris - were hardly at their free-flowing best.

Matic then saw red as he reacted aggressively to an absolutely disgusting "challenge" from Barnes that is sure to earn the Burnley man a prolonged ban - but that will offer little consolation to Mourinho who then saw his side concede what could be a defining goal in the title race.

Thibaut Courtois made a miraculous save to deny Barnes' dipping volley, but he was powerless to prevent Mee converting from Kieran Trippier's corner kick to earn the away side a vital point in their bid to escape relegation.

To add insult to injury, Kightly, already in the book following a succession of poorly-timed tackles, then escaped what may have been a second yellow for a deliberate trip on Ivanovic, but as both sides went for it in the final throes of the game it was ultimately the away side that might have stolen all three points when Danny Ings slid a shot just wide of Courtois' goal.

Matic will now miss the Blues' next three games, including next weekend's Capital One Cup final against Tottenham, but he may well have been out for the rest of the season. The Serbian was truly lucky not to suffer a broken leg and ultimately, though his reaction cannot ever be condoned, even the most ardent of Burnley supporter could surely not deny that Barnes was lucky to not also be dismissed.

The next time Chelsea are in Premier League action - away to West Ham a week on Wednesday - they may well find themselves a mere two points clear at the top of the table with City facing Liverpool at Anfield whilst the Blues attend to cup final duties.

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