Chelsea travelled to the Amex Stadium looking to bounce back after back-to-back league draws with Leicester City and Arsenal. They made sure they weren’t going to fall victim to a stalemate again by stuffing four goals past a spirited Brighton side.
Antonio Conte was forced to hand Willy Caballero his first Premier League start for the Chelsea as Thibaut Courtois missed out with ankle injury. Alvaro Morata was suspended so Michy Batshuayi led the line while Ross Barkley had a place on the bench, despite not being used.
Chelsea flew out of the blocks in Saturday’s early kick-off and were one up inside three minutes. Victor Moses attacked the right wing and his pull-back was perfectly diverted into the path of Eden Hazard by Dale Stephens. The Belgian star moved the ball onto his right foot and fired past Mathew Ryan for his 100th league goal. Just as the Seagulls tried to recover from the sucker punch, they were two goals behind, this time courtesy of Willian. Some absolutely wonderful link-up play between the Brazilian, Hazard and Batshuayi ended with the latter laying the ball off for Willian, who still had a lot to do with the finish but made no mistake with a powerful effort from 18 yards.
It was this shock to the system that alerted the hosts to get back into the game and they will feel they were denied that chance as Caballero appeared to have upended Ezequiel Schelotto in the box; any Brighton appeals were waved away by Jon Moss. The Argentine stopper then pulled out an expert save to preserve the two-goal lead as he parried Tomar Hemed’s close-range header to safety. This was before the promoted side, who are now 17/10 with NetBet Sport to avoid the drop, had another penalty shout brushed under the carpet; Schelotto was once again supposedly brought down in the 18-yard box, this time by Tiemoue Bakayoko.
Hazard shows his class
After the interval, Brighton were still looking for a route back into the match and Caballero was very fortunate to see Davy Propper’s header hit the woodwork after getting nowhere near it. The visitors were kept out by the post at the other end when Willian’s whipped free-kick was superbly pushed onto the post by Ryan at full stretch. Schelotto then caused more problems and was unlucky not to score after taking advantage of Marcos Alonso’s lapse in concentration before failing to get enough behind a tame shot that was blocked by Caballero.
Conte’s side were then out of sight when Hazard’s picked up the ball just inside the opposition half and drove towards the Seagulls’ box. The man who scored the winning penalty against Norwich in midweek managed to find five yards of space inside a penalty area containing six Brighton defenders, before slotting the ball past Ryan, who dived the wrong way.
The three points were then made secure for the Blues with a fourth and final goal. Charly Musonda, who was introduced with little over ten minutes remaining, floated an inch-perfect ball into the box for Moses, and the Nigerian international calmly slid the ball into the bottom corner past Brighton’s onrushing goalkeeper. This was the icing on the cake for Chelsea on an afternoon where they were lucky to keep a clean sheet and possibly even luckier to come away with a four-goal lead. The performance of Eden Hazard was very pleasing as he once again showed why he is considered by many as one of the best players in world football.
Chris Hughton will feel as though his side deserved more but his counterpart will be over the moon with his side’s ruthlessness in front of goal after scoring just once in their last four matches. All in all, a very good result for the Blues.