Chelsea returned to Stamford Bridge following three away days in the space of a week and welcomed a Brighton side who have never managed to beat them in a league game.
Left-Wing or Left Out?
Marcos Alonso, a regular starter since Ben Chilwell’s ACL injury, was left on the bench with Reece James preferred in the left wing-back role in the week that it was confirmed that Chilwell would undergo surgery.
James matched up against former Chelsea academy colleague Tariq Lamptey and the two’s early interactions were fast and furious, Lamptey going on a solo run in the Chelsea half early on but failing to test Edouard Mendy in goal.
It wasn’t until 15 minutes into the game that either goalkeeper was tested but consecutive Chelsea corners forced saves from Roberto Sanchez, most impressively from a looping Antonio Rudiger header.
After a slow start the game began to find some rhythm and Chelsea were dominating possession at the halfway stage of the first half when the unfortunate James was withdrawn with a suspected hamstring injury, replaced by Alonso. Supporters were still clapping the former off the pitch when Romelu Lukaku headed in from a Mason Mount corner.
Lukaku shrugged off a rugby style challenge from Neal Maupay, who duly received a helping of the Belgian's elbow to his face as he was thrown to the ground as Lukaku's momentum launched him towards the mid-air ball.
Brighton Turn the Tide:
Brighton seemed to click into gear with this jolt to the score line and spent the rest of the half bossing possession and playing the game in Chelsea’s half and on 37 minutes called Mendy into action for the first and second occasions in quick succession, the best of which came in response to a shot from Adam Lallana.
Without the close attention of Reece James, Tariq Lamptey began to have more joy with his ventures into the home side’s final third and drew a crunching tackle from Rudiger just before the break, resulting in a yellow card for the German defender.
Whatever Thomas Tuchel said to his players at half time, it didn’t work. More of the same ensued.
Brighton continued to cause the Chelsea defence, which now included Trevoh Chalobah as a replacement for the injured Andreas Christensen, problems as they chased for an equaliser, the game becoming increasingly stretched.
A shot from another of Brighton’s stand out players, Yves Bissouma forced a save from Mendy that looked to have shocked the Senegalese keeper on 53 minutes and it looked that Chelsea were riding their luck.
Luck Runs Out:
A few minutes later and Chelsea caught Brighton on the break with Callum Hudson-Odoi through on goal, yet his failure to find the unmarked Mason Mount in a better position, giving Joel Veltman the opportunity to make an interception, would prove costly. Seconds later, Maupay shot very narrowly wide.
Chelsea continued to miss chances, and Brighton continued to push for them. Though N’Golo Kante was brought on to steady the defence, it was the away side who looked more likely, bringing on their own reinforcement in Danny Welbeck.
With the game entering its 91st minute, Welbeck rose to meet the ball, sandwiched between Rudiger and Chalobah, to thump a header past the hapless Mendy, who remained rooted to the spot. The Chelsea players look on in disbelief, and the Brighton bench explode on to the pitch with three minutes left on the clock.
2021 Over and Out:
Chelsea drop more points in the title race and are now just one of the chasing pack, having led the league just weeks ago, chasing Manchester City’s shadows as 2021 draws to a close.
Brighton may not have broken their duck in the league against Chelsea just yet, but only one team will be feeling like winners as they head home from Stamford Bridge this evening.