After Liverpool dropped points so Chelsea’s match on Wednesday night against Brighton represented a great opportunity for the Blues to move into second, but a late Danny Welbeck goal saw them drop points at home once again. This ruled out Romelu Lukaku’s first half header that had seemed to set Chelsea on their way.
Chelsea Vs Brighton: Team news
After a successful Boxing Day victory against Aston Villa, Thomas Tuchel made four changes including a start for Romelu Lukaku. His introduction saw Christian Pulisic moved to left wing back and replaced Spaniard Marcos Alonso. In defence there was a pair of changes as Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen replaced Trevoh Chalobah and veteran Thiago Silva. Finally, Mateo Kovacic got his first league start in over two months in place of N’golo Kante.
For Brighton, who also won on Boxing Day, they made a trio of changes. Influential midfielder Enock Mwepu was rested for Yves Bissouma. There was a change in attack as Englishman Solly March replaced Leandro Trossard and at the other end of the pitch Adam Webster dropped out for Dutch centre back Joёl Veltman. Ex-Chelsea player Tariq Lamptey started at right back.
The last time these two sides met a 0-0 draw was overshadowed by the Super League and subsequent collapse of it. Thankfully this time around the build-up was more like something you would associate with a Premier League match.
Chelsea immediately settled into their rhythm as they got off to an uncharacteristic bright start. Lukaku was a key feature in these early stages as his teammates looked to use him as a launch pad for all attacks with a couple of loose passes in the final third from his fellow attackers preventing any real chances.
The first signs of the danger that Brighton could pose shortly followed as the talented young Lamptey made a break in behind his old academy teammate Reece James before beating him in an one on one and firing a left footed effort wide of the far post.
The home side didn’t let that faze them as Azpilicueta squirted an effort against the post after Robert Sanchez failed to collect a corner and then Mason Mount forced him into a save at his near post after good hold up play from Lukaku.
From the resulting corner, Mount’s outswinger found Lukaku’s head, who had shrugged off Neil Maupay, and he glanced it into the far corner to give the Blues the lead just before the half hour mark.
Unfortunately, in the build up to that goal, James went down injured after a strong challenge from Bissouma and worryingly he had to helped off by several Chelsea staff. He was replaced by Alonso.
After a short lull in proceedings, Brighton moved into the ascendancy in the latter half of the opening period. Bissouma was central to this as he had a shot easily saved by Edouard Mendy before his unopposed run at the Chelsea defence led to a reaction save by Mendy from Adam Lallana’s effort.
The pressure continued as Antonio Rüdiger found his way into Mike Dean’s book after a reckless challenge on Lamptey, as he knocked the ball past Alonso. The Brighton player would see an effort drift over the bar from a corner a few moments later.
The Seagulls continued to dominate possession as they enjoyed the space gifted to them by Jorginho and Kovacic without really creating anything purposeful before the half time whistle.
HT: Chelsea 1-0 Brighton
Unsurprisingly to those watching Chalobah replaced Christensen at the start of the second period as the Danish defender had been struggling with back pain for much of the first half.
Brighton’s pressure continued well into the second half as they went close on numerous occasions. Jakub Moder’s flicked shot clipped the top of the bar before Alexis Mac Allister’s free kick nearly caught out Mendy at his near post. The impressive Bissouma then saw a powerful swerving drive on the bounce also parried away by the Senegalese goalkeeper.
A rare foray forward for Chelsea on the counter saw a two on one situation and as the goal beckoned for Callum Hudson-Odoi, he instead tried to slip in Mount, but the pass was cut out.
Would Chelsea regret that failure to capitalise later on?
Straightaway the normal pattern of the game quickly resumed as Maupay saw his effort drift past the far post before he then saw a shot blocked by Rüdiger with Mendy out of his goal. Then, after a crucial interception from captain Azpilicueta, Lallana fired a big chance over the top of the bar in acres of space in the penalty box.
Kante’s introduction was a much needed one in the 67th minute as he sparked new life into this labouring Chelsea team. This rubbed off on Mount whose interception and then driving run half the length of the pitch saw him win a free kick which he delivered and had to be scrambled away by Veltman.
The next chance of the game would also fall to the star Englishman, and he saw his left footed shot on the edge of the box deflected behind by Marc Cucurella.
Chelsea had found their footing in the game once again as a Lukaku shot went narrowly wide and then Mount had the ball in the net only for Dean to pull it back for a contentious foul.
However, the sucker punch to Chelsea’s title hopes would come in the 91st minute and in the form of substitute Welbeck. He rose highest from a Cucurella ball and confidently headed it right into the corner leaving Mendy with no chance.
FT: Chelsea 1-1 Brighton
Written by Harrison Burridge (@indepthfandc)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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