The Premier League festive period is notorious for being extremely busy and for throwing up some very unexpected results. Chelsea faced two matches in four days: the first away at Everton on the 23rd before facing Brighton at home on Boxing Day.
Despite dominating the match on Merseyside, the Blues couldn’t find a breakthrough and drew 0-0, while a few days later, they routinely beat Brighton 2-0 at Stamford Bridge after a goalless first half.
Everton 0-0 Chelsea
Antonio Conte was under no illusions about the difficulty of the game away at Everton and his side struggled to penetrate a strong defence that was clearly set up by Sam Allardyce. Conte was forced into one big change in the forward line, as Alvaro Morata picked up a suspension after receiving a yellow card in the Carabao Cup quarter-final tie against Bournemouth.
Eden Hazard was chosen to spearhead the attack ahead of his fellow countryman Michy Batshuayi, and Everton were set up to restrict him from having a minute’s space. Real Madrid’s reported interest in the Belgian playmaker has been cooled after he praised Lionel Messi on the back of El Clasico. Willian and Pedro started the match hoping to add to the presence of Hazard, but largely failed to light up the match; both were taken off in the second half.
Tiemoue Bakayoko had the best chance of the first half but Jordan Pickford was equal to it, brilliantly tipping the ball over the bar. The French midfielder then had a chance cleared off the goalline by Michael Keane before Phil Jagielka did the same to deny a great Willian opportunity. The hosts didn’t challenge for the duration of the first 45 minutes as repeated long balls up to Dominic Calvert-Lewin were snuffed out by the three-man Blues defence.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first and led to increased frustration for Conte’s side as cross after cross into the Everton 18-yard box was dealt with the defensive pairing of Keane and Jagielka. The closest the visitors came to a goal was through Everton’s second-half substitute.
Victor Moses’ whipped cross was met by the head of Ashley Williams, who was very fortunate to see it bounce back off the crossbar. It was then the hosts who very nearly stole all three points in the dying minutes when Michael Keane powered a Gylfi Sigurdsson corner just over Thibaut Courtois’ bar.
Chelsea 2-0 Brighton
Anything other than a comfortable win in this match would have been seen as disappointing by the Chelsea fans and that’s exactly what they saw on Boxing Day. With Morata back in the starting eleven, there was a sense of confidence going into the clash and he delivered the opening goal in the second half.
The first half showed signs of following the Everton game as Bakayoko once again squandered a chance before Moses did the same. The Blues clearly endured an Antonio Conte rocket in the dressing room at half-time and within a minute of the restart, they took the lead.
A goal made in Spain saw Chelsea take the lead as a pinpoint Cesar Azpilicueta cross found Morata between Brighton’s centre-backs, who then finished off the fast-paced move with a header into the bottom corner. Marcos Alonso then ended the match as a contest with a brilliant glancing header from Cesc Fabregas’ near-post corner.
With their two-goal advantage, Hazard had a shot cleared off the line by Lewis Dunk after a fantastic solo run, which would have put the cherry on the Christmas cake for Chelsea. It was a deserved three points for the hosts after a great team performance, but they should have taken six points from the two games either side of Christmas Day.