Looking to end a run of four successive home defeats on their return to the top flight this season, promoted Burnley raced into a 15th-minute lead, Wilson Odobert scoring his first goal in English football to stun the visitors.
Chelsea offered little in response until Ameen Al Dakhil put the ball in his own net in the most unfortunate circumstances three minutes before the break to get Mauricio Pochettino’s team back level.
Having failed to win in their last 19 matches when conceding the opening goal in the Premier League, a run dating back to October 2022, Chelsea completed the turnaround early in the second half.
A fine Sterling goal and a fourth from substitute Nicolas Jackson put the game beyond the hosts, lifting Chelsea to ninth in the standings, with Burnley remaining in the relegation zone with only one win this season.
“I was telling you in some games, we are building something,” Pochettino said after the win. “We are a young group, we have some experienced players, it’s a matter of time.
“We were performing very well. I think the team was good, the performance was fantastic and we go to the international break with a different feeling.”
Burnley had won just one of their 16 Premier League matches against Chelsea, a 3-2 away win in 2017 when the Blues were reigning champions, but given the huge overhaul of both squads ahead of this season, that will not have been at the forefront of either sides’ minds.
Both teams began like units who had not quite got used to each other yet, with Palmer’s long-range effort that sailed well over the only real effort at goal in the opening exchanges.
Sterling whistled one fizzing strike past the post before Odobert collected a pass from Lyle Foster and fired through the legs of Chelsea full back Marc Cucurella into the bottom corner. the 18-year-old became Burnley’s youngest Premier League goalscorer with the strike.
Chelsea had plenty of possession for the remainder of the opening period but looked like they were going to be frustrated as the interval approached, only for Al Dakhil to divert Sterling’s cross over home goalkeeper James Trafford.
Sterling was again at the centre of things five minutes into the second half, drawing a foul from Vitinho to allow Palmer the chance to open his account for Chelsea, which he emphatically fired home.
Jackson’s well-taken fourth, set up by Palmer, ensured the Chelsea fans head back to the capital with big smiles on their faces after seeing their team score four or more goals for the first time in 71 matches in all competitions.
“It goes to show what this league is about,” Burnley coach Vincent Kompany said. “You are playing well for one half and it’s not enough.
“Everyone has to level up. I’d like a magic wand but it’s a lot of work in training and getting the basics right. In spells we’ve done it really well but it’s just spells.”