LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea coach Antonio Conte berated his players for losing their composure after new captain Gary Cahill saw red on Saturday, and said he would be working on new formations using only 10 men.
The champions slumped to a 3-2 opening day defeat against unfancied Burnley, shipping three goals in the first half after Cahill was sent off for a dangerous tackle.
“It was a key moment. After this red card we lost our composure,” the Italian told reporters.
“We must pay attention and try to keep our heads the rest of the game. Instead we conceded three goals and despite a good second half performance it was difficult to change the result.”
Conte, looking tired and disgruntled, said he preferred not to talk about the referee who also sent off Cesc Fabregas in the 82nd minute after the Spaniard earned a second yellow card for an ill-timed tackle on former Chelsea man Jack Cork.
Conte paused and thought long and hard when asked about referee Craig Pawson’s decisions, then said: “I think that the coach can make mistakes, the players can make mistakes, the referee...”
Conte said his halftime team talk, which along with the introduction of new striker Alvaro Morata who scored on his debut, appeared to completely transform the game, involved pointing out how the players had panicked and lost their shape.
“I like to tell always the truth and in the second half we changed totally the situation. We didn’t lose the balance and we tried to change the final result.”
Conte returned to his mantra from last season that the team needed to work hard to produce results and he pointed out that Chelsea had finished their last three games without all 11 of their players on the pitch.
“Also I have to study a new formation with 10 men, because when it happens with this regularity I must be worried.”
Morata, he said, was working hard on his fitness and on adapting to Conte’s system.
He brushed aside questions about reported tension with Chelsea’s board over signing new players and said he was not worried because three key players - Eden Hazard, Pedro and Victor Moses - could return from injury and suspension for Chelsea’s next game against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
“I’m not worried because we have to trust in our work ... In the next game I’m not sure whether Pedro is ready but for sure we’ll have (the other) two players. We’ll find the right solution.”
Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Andrew Bolton