Goals: BHA- March (66′)
CHE- Pedro (17′), Hazard (32′)
Two goals in the first half from Pedro and Hazard were just enough, as Chelsea saw off a late Brighton resurgence to pick up 3 vital points on the South Coast in the Premier League, as they beat Brighton 2-1 at the Amex Stadium.
Surprisingly, the game started at a good tempo, with Brighton being the first team to threaten Chelsea’s defence in the 13th minute when Solly March had his effort inside the Chelsea box blocked.
However as the first half progressed, Chelsea took control of the game and grabbed the first goal of the game in the 17th minute, when Hazard’s shot was blocked from outside the box. The ball then came back to Hazard who dribbled past a couple of defenders and passed the ball across the box for Pedro to tap in for his 6th goal in the Premier League this season. Hazard has added to his assist tally with Chelsea’s first goal. He now at this point had 8 assists so far for Chelsea this season.
Although replays did show that Alonso was offside in the build-up to the first goal, even though he wasn’t directly involved. So the Blues were perhaps fortunate to be 1-0 up in this game.
Chelsea were nearly the makers of their own downfall in the 29th minute when Kovacic gave the ball away in his own half under no pressure to March, who took on a shot from long range, and his attempt was well held by Kepa. However, on another day, that could have been 1-1!
But Brighton were the makers of their own doing for Chelsea’s second goal, when Balogun loosely gave the ball away to Willian, who slotted through Hazard 1 on 1, who calmly finished past Matt Ryan to grab his 8th goal of the Premier League season, and ended his 2 month drought without any goals for Chelsea after his brilliant start this season for Maurizio Sarri’s side.
So at halftime, Chelsea looked fairly comfortable. The question was, could they add to their lead in the second half, or would Brighton find the belief like Wolves did, and overturn a deficit at halftime against Maurizio Sarri’s side? If Brighton were to get back in this game, it looked like they would have to expose Alonso in the second half, as he looked the weakest link in the Chelsea defence in the first half.
The Second half started the way the first half ended, with Chelsea in control. And they should have gone 0-3 up in the early stages of the second half, as Azpilicueta delivered a lovely ball across the box and it just evaded Hazard and landed to Willian at the far post who teed up Pedro who’s effort was fired over the bar from close range.
They had another chance to kill the game off fully in the 63rd minute when Alonso’s long-range shot smashed the post. So unlucky, but were Chelsea going to rue these chances?
Well Brighton grew into the second half at the midpoint, and from a corner in the 65th minute, had a chance to pull one back, when Balogun peeled off his man from a corner at the back post and headed back across the box, however, no one was there to apply a finishing touch as Chelsea scrambled it clear. That was definitely a warning sign there for Chelsea that this game wasn’t over yet.
Brighton pulled one back in the 66th minute when Bernardo’s header at the far post was hooked in well past Kepa to get Brighton right back into the game at 1-2. That was Brighton’s first ever goal against Chelsea in the Premier League!
In the midst of that goal, Sarri wanted to bring on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, however, the fourth official pointed out a problem with his socks and therefore delayed the substitution to Maurizio Sarri’s frustration.
There was a moment of controversy in the 87th minute when Bissouma slipped in March who looked to be in on goal, however, Alonso pulled down March and only received a yellow card. To the letter of the law, that should have been a red card and Alonso was fortunate to stay on there!
Brighton’s last chance of the game came in the 92nd minute when Dunk headed wide to Chelsea’s relief as they collected 3 vital points on the South Coast.
So Sarri would have been impressed with Chelsea’s first-half performance and their start to the second half, however, they dropped off as the second half went on. For Brighton and Chris Hughton, they only came alive midway through the second half- so it was a little bit too late for Brighton, in the end, to gain a point, as they left their resurgence too late.
Match Statistics (Credit- BBC Sport)
Possession (%) 42 58
Shots 6 10
Shots on Target 2 3
Corners 4 1
Fouls 14 6
Manager and Player Comments (Brighton and Chelsea official Twitter accounts)
Brighton Manager: Christ Hughton
On his team’s overall performance;
“We have to take the positives from how we finished the game. We were up against a very good side — whether it was at home or away, they’ve spent big money and brought in exceptional players.
“They’re a team that will be pushing at the top end of the division, so we have to understand that and respect that.
“But I thought we were in the game for large periods, and that’s what you want. I can’t fault the effort our players put in, particularly in the second half.
“We said ‘if you can get that first goal back, anything can happen’. If one of those scrambles in the last few minutes goes in, then it’s a different outcome.”
On Chelsea’s Performance;
“We were up against a very talented team that had two chances in the first half and scored two goals. It showed how clinical they can be.
“We started the game well, but you can’t give them the leg up of going behind, because they’ll capitalise on that.
“You’re then looking for a response and I think we gave that in the second half. We’ve left today disappointed with the result, but overall we’re not disappointed with the performance.”
On the Alonso yellow card situation;
“Having seen it again, I think some referees would have given it, but I can see the doubt in it.
“But there’s no doubt that Alonso should have been on a yellow card anyway. He pulled back Anthony Knockaert, which is always a yellow card.
“With that being a yellow card, the second incident should have been a sending off. Those are my thoughts at the moment.”
Chelsea Manager: Maurizio Sarri
Maurizio Sarri says we could have won better as we played very well for 60 minutes but conceded when we were in full control. Therefore we had to face long balls into the box in the last five minutes.
Sarri reports Eden Hazard is okay. He has a knock but it is not a big problem and will need just one or two days of rest
Sarri says he tried to make the substitution bringing on Loftus-Cheek two minutes before it happened. In that time we conceded the goal which disappoints him.
Chelsea Player: Eden Hazard
Chelsea forward Eden Hazard on whether it was important to score his first goal for the club in nine games: “No. I like to score, but it’s not important for me. The most important thing is to win games. I just enjoy my football and that’s why I’’m on the pitch.”
On Brighton pulling a goal back: “We knew before the game that we need to score the third goal. When it’s 3-0 it’s harder for teams to get back. But we didn’t and conceded – you feel the pressure. But we managed the game well.”
On keeping pace with the leaders: “We want to be top of the league at the end of the season. We know Man City and Liverpool are good teams – we don’t want the gap to be big.”
On the responsibility of leading the line: “I always play with the same ability and quality. As a winger and striker, I just try to enjoy my football.”
Player and Manager Ratings
Ryan- 6 (Didn’t have to make too many saves. Had to pick the ball out of the back of his net twice)
Montoya- 6 (Good in the attacking sense, delivering dangerous ball’s into the Chelsea box, but was suspect defensively)
Balogun- 4 (Poor on the whole. Gave away the ball for Chelsea’s second goal)
Dunk- 5 (Solid for most parts. Nearly equalised in the last minute)
Bernardo- 7 (Same as Montoya, however, the only difference was that he got the assist fro Brighton’s goal)
Groß- 6 (Didn’t make a huge impact on the game)
Stephens- 6 (Took out Hazard on multiple occasions)
Pröpper- 6 (Solid on the whole)
Knockaert- 5 (Didn’t really make a huge impact on the game, and therefore was subbed off for Locadia)
March- 8 (Got the goal to get Brighton back into the game. Also had a chance in the first half which Kepa saved well)
Murray- 4 (Starved of service for the whole game)
Andone- 7 (Made a good impact to the game and caused the Chelsea defenders a few problems before the end of the game)
Bissouma- 6 (Made a few good passes when he came on)
Locadia- 5 (Didn’t have a lot of chances to impact the game)
Manager Ratings; Chris Hughton- 6- The only mistake he made for this game was not starting Andone, as he caused more problems to Chelsea’s defence in a shorter time period than what Murray did.
Kepa- 6 (Good save in the first half from March, however, could have done better for March’s goal in the second half)
Alonso- 5 (Hit the post, but was so suspect defensively in the whole match. Should have been sent off at the end as well)
Rüdiger- 6 (Solid for most of the game. Looked a little shaky at the end of the match when Brighton pushed for the equaliser)
Luiz- 6 (Same as Rüdiger)
Azpilicueta- 7 (Much better than Alonso in the defensive phase)
Jorginho- 5 (Didn’t really do a lot today)
Kanté- 7 (Looked very positive in the attacking phase today and also put in a good shift defensively)
Kovacic- 4 (Poorest out of the midfield 3. Nearly cost Chelsea in the first half after giving the ball away sloppily, leading to March having a chance)
Pedro- 8 (Excellent link-up play with Hazard and Willian especially in the first half. Good goal)
Willian- 7 (Played alright, but didn’t impact the game as much as Pedro and Hazard did)
Hazard- 9 (Excellent in the first half with grabbing 1 goal and 1 assist. However he was hacked out of the game in the second half)
Loftus-Cheek- 7 (Very positive when he came on. Driving forward and causing problems to the Brighton defence)
Barkley-5 (Not too good when he came on)
Giroud- 5 (Had more defending to do when he came on compared to attacking)
Manager Ratings; Maurizio Sarri-8- Set up his team well continuing with the false 9 which worked. Only criticism is that he should have brought Giroud on a little earlier.
Position in the Premier League table
Chelsea remain in 4th place with 37 points, and they were helped when Southampton shocked Arsenal 3-2 in the other 1:30pm match. This means that Chelsea are now 3 points in front of 5th placed Arsenal who have 34 points. Chelsea are also only 2 points off 3rd placed Spurs as they scraped a late 1-0 victory over Burnley yesterday. For Brighton, they drop 2 places to 13th place with 21 points.
Next games for both teams
Chelsea are next in Carabao Cup action midweek when they face Bournemouth in the quarterfinals of the League Cup at Stamford Bridge at 7:45pm (UK time). Both teams are next in Premier League action next weekend, with Brighton facing an out of form Bournemouth away from home at the Vitality Stadium, next Saturday at 3:00pm (UK time). Chelsea also play next Saturday at 3:00pm (UK time) at home to Claude Puel’s Leicester City.
Check out Chivers and Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris’s Post Match analysis podcast for this match on Sportstalkline.com later this week
Also, Check out the ABDH Football podcast on Monday as myself and Hannah will be reviewing all the action from this weekend’s Premier League games as we get closer to Christmas!
By Danyal Khan