Saturday 20th January, Amex Stadium – It was Brighton & Hove Albion versus Chelsea for the early kick-off in the Premier League. Both teams were a little bit goal shy, Chelsea in the last few games, Brighton all season. And both were looking to change that state of affairs in this match today.
Chelsea had recorded five straight draws in all competitions since the start of 2018, three of them goalless. They did manage to beat Norwich City on penalties in their last game, but Alvaro Morata and Pedro both picked up suspensions.
Brighton actually scored more goals in their three games in January (four goals), than Chelsea had in their five games (three goals) in the same period. The odds weren’t necessarily in Brighton’s favour this fixture, but they had home advantage, and definitely had the quality to give Chelsea a game.
Steve Sidwell was out with an ankle fracture, and Jurgen Locadia, Brighton’s record signing at £14m, was not in Chris Hughton’s squad for this game.
Ross Barkley was on the bench for Chelsea, but Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill were both out with hamstring injuries. Thibaut Courtois was also unavailable due to an ankle injury, so Willy Caballero made his first league start this season.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Ryan 4.5, Suttner 5, Goldson 5.5, Duffy 6.5, Dunk 5.5, Schelotto 7.5, Stephens 6, Propper 6.5, Gros 7 (Kayal 5), March 6 (Izqueirdo 5), Hemed 7 (Murray 5.5)
Subs Krul, Hunemeier, Kayal, Baldock, Izqueirdo, Rosenior, Murray
Caballero 7.5, Moses 8, Rudiger 6, Christensen 6 (Luiz 6), Azpilicueta 6, Alonso 5 (Zappacosta 6), Bakayoko 6.5, Kante 8, Hazard 9, Willian 8.5 (Musonda 7.5), Batshuayi 7.5
Subs Eduardo, Luiz, Ampadu, Zappacosta, Barkley, Musonda, Sterling
Before this game, Chelsea hadn’t scored a first half goal since 30th December vs Stoke City. They didn’t waste any time today though, they were up two goals within the first six minutes.
Eden Hazard took possession on the edge of the box and passed to Michy Batshuayi just ahead of him. Batshuayi held it up then put it wide for Victor Moses, who dribbled past Markus Suttner, then cut a low cross back into the box.
The ball deflected off Dale Stephens and back to Hazard – he took a couple of touches to put Lewis Dunk out of the picture, then whipped a shot across the goalkeeper and into the top corner 1 – 0.
Sublime Team Goal
The first goal might have been down to Hazard’s individual skill, but the second was a sublime team goal. It felt like a flashback to last season’s dizzying 3-4-3 heights:
N’golo Kante intercepted a Brighton pass on the right wing… and in space of ten seconds the ball went from Willian to Hazard, to Batshuayi, back to Willian again, two consecutive back-passes from Hazard and Batshuayi to put the ball into space, then a rocket from Willian that was always curling away from Mathew Ryan… 2 – 0.
Brighton came forward in waves, searching for a way back into the game. Chelsea’s left wing was especially leaky, and Brighton right back Ezequiel Schelotto had two penalty calls ignored by the referee.
The first may have been given if the game had a VAR: Willy Caballero did seem to trip Schelotto up, even if he was a little late going to ground. The second, Schelotto appeared to run into Bakayoko in the box, but the direction of his fall indicated he threw himself down, rather than being knocked over.
Caballero failed to connect with the ball from a Brighton corner, and Davy Propper put his header wide from just a few yards out. The ref eventually called play back for offside, but it was a nervy (rusty?) moment from Chelsea’s stand-in keeper.
Pascal Gros curled a cross into the box from the right, and Tomer Hemed got a header off from close range – but Caballero made a world class save to deny him.
Shane Duffy had another header in the box, but this time Marcos Alonso did enough to prevent him from putting it on target.
Four minutes into the second half, Gros put another cross into the box for Propper, but his header hit the post. It was a bit hairy but Chelsea were dealing with it.
Andreas Christensen went off with a head injury on 56 minutes, and David Luiz came in to replace him.
A minute after that Willian curled a free kick round the Brighton wall, but Ryan got a hand to it and pushed the ball onto the post.
Then on 76 minutes, Hazard made it three. Willian set Hazard off on the fast break with a through ball from midfield. Connor Goldson and Lewis Dunk may have thought they had Hazard covered; they kept backing off him all the way into the box.
Maybe they thought he would pass to Batshuayi or Willian either side of him. At the end though he went for the simple finish, hooking a shot left and into the bottom corner for 3 – 0.
Chelsea weren’t done. Charly Musonda replaced Willian for the final ten minutes of the game, and he was an immediate threat on the right wing.
Musonda did even more damage when he drifted into a central position alongside Bakayoko. He spotted a run from Moses, and put the perfect pass in over the top for him. Moses accelerated past Suttner, rounded the keeper and played in a simple finish for 4 – 0.
Blessing In Disguise
In a way, Chelsea’s suspensions and injuries might have been a net benefit for them. Pedro, Morata and Fabregas have been great at times this season, but maybe they could do with a little time on the side-lines to rest and rediscover their best form.
Also, Antonio Conte might be the kind of manager that needs to be backed into a corner to take some of his backup players more seriously. Caballero, Batshuayi and Musonda weren’t perfect (well Musonda was, in the short period he did play), but they did show they deserve more trust, and more starts for Chelsea this season.
Final Score Brighton & Hove Albion 0 – 4 Chelsea
Would you like to write for London is Blue? Click on the “contact us” tab located on the top menu, fill out the form, and we can get started!