Chelsea clinched their first Premier League win of 2018 to move into third-place and level on points with Manchester United. Brighton & Hove Albion remain in a precarious position in 16th place and only three points above the relegation zone.
Eden Hazard ran the show, scoring twice for the visitors, in a resounding 4-0 victory at the Amex Stadium. The Belgian broke the deadlock inside three minutes, by illustrating his class with truly exceptional footwork inside the penalty area, and applying a finish beyond Matt Ryan.
Willian instantaneously doubled Chelsea’s advantage on six minutes by concluding an intricate passing move with a thumping strike into the top corner. Brighton & Hove Albion were denied two viable penalty claims, with Brighton right-back Schelotto falling victim on both occasions.
Brighton & Hove Albion pushed for a route back into the contest by starting the second half in promising fashion. Propper sent his free header crashing onto the post and Chris Hughton made two attacking changes to enhance their chances of seizing the momentum.
The hosts were left stranded due to their attacking set-up and Chelsea duly punished them with a counter-attacking move to increase their lead. Eden Hazard grabbed his brace, after Willian launched a counter-attacking move with a defence splitting pass. Hazard latched onto his pass, cut inside with the ball glued to his feet and released a low composed finish into the far bottom corner.
Victor Moses sealed the win by scoring the final goal with one minute of normal time remaining. Musonda catapulted the ball into the path of Moses, who skipped beyond Markus Suttner with an exceptional touch and dispatched his finish into the far bottom corner.
The Blues rocketed themselves into third place, by moving above Liverpool, who travel to the Liberty Stadium to face bottom-place Swansea City on Monday evening. Brighton remain in 16th place but Southampton, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion are still due to play this weekend.
Brighton & Hove Albion attempted to mark zonally for both of Chelsea’s opening goals, which made it easier for them to express themselves with the likes of Eden Hazard, Michy Batshuayi and Willian. The hosts stationed 7 players inside their own penalty area when Hazard broke the deadlock.
They were unfortunate due to the diverted touch of Stephens taking the ball into the path of Hazard but they were naïve and foolish to award such a potent player with a significant amount of space. He shifted the ball very quickly with a low centre of gravity, which made it impossible for Dunk to deny him with him swooping attempted block.
Lewis Dunk gave possession away cheaply inside his own half and Brighton were unable to reassemble themselves to deal with the attacking threat posed by Chelsea. The Seagulls formed a compact defence and midfield but Willian, Batshuayi and Hazard combined majestically to simply break through and double their lead.
The hosts pressed forward in the latter stages of the first half and forced Chelsea into growing complacent and giving away possession softly on numerous occasions. Their threat from set pieces also troubled Willy Caballero, who opted to punch or flap at the ball rather than gathering it safely due to the aerial threat proposed by Brighton.
However, the Argentine made amends for his unconvincing goalkeeping by pulling off a top class save to deny Hemed’s close-range header. Brighton also should’ve exploited Chelsea down the channels better in the first half due to Moses and Alonso playing in more advanced roles.
Both Moses and Alonso portrayed more defensive roles in the second half, which was assumingly instructed by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte at half-time. Brighton were still able to create problems when they utilized the crossing abilities of Pascal Gross. He delivered the ball to the near post for Propper, who was gifted with the time and space to launch his header onto the near post.
David Luiz replaced Andreas Christensen shortly prior to the hour-mark, due to the head injury the latter had sustained during an aerial challenge with Shane Duffy earlier in the second half. Luiz along with Alonso and Willian probed an immediate set-piece threat, with the latter having his curling strike magnificently tipped onto the post by Mark Ryan.
Brighton attempted to press Chelsea and pushed forward, especially when Chris Hughton made two attacking substitutions with 22 minutes of normal time remaining. However, they shot themselves in the foot and were caught out of positions, due to the counter-attacking move between Willian and Eden Hazard.
Willian split the Brighton defence with a through ball into the path of Eden Hazard. The Belgian accelerated towards the edge of the penalty area, dragged the ball across the face of the defence and sent a classy reverse finish into the far bottom corner, which wrong-footed Matt Ryan.
The Seagulls seemed deflated after all their efforts in the second half and Moses rounded off a comfortable score line. Moses began a diagonal run across Suttner, who half-heartedly kept tabs with the Nigerian international, but he subsequently burst goal side of the Austrian international to latch onto Musonda’s long ball and tuck his finish past Matt Ryan.
The full-time result hardly reflected Brighton’s performance, but the combination play between Hazard, Batshuayi and Willian ultimately decided the affair. They were majestic and formed a potent trio, with Hazard bewitching the defenders with his supreme ball control, Batshuayi holding the ball up effectively and Willian making various off-the-ball contributions and providing a threat with his technical ability.
Brighton & Hove Albion were unfortunate to be denied two penalties during the first half. On 16 minutes, Caballero haplessly parried the ball into danger and naively emerged from his six-yard box to hack down Brighton right-back Schelotto.
The referee was unsighted due to Willian, Bakayoko and lastly Caballero preventing him from viewing the incident. However, the linesman was in a perfect position to judge the situation and was unable to identify the foul from Caballero.
Schelotto was the recipient of another denied penalty claim from John Moss and was subsequently booked for simulation, which would’ve further fuelled their dismay at the decision. Bakayoko strolled towards Christensen’s weak clearance, Schelotto pounced to beat him to the ball and he was ultimately tripped by the former AS Monaco midfielder. Moss was in a perfect position to make the decision but deemed it to be a simple coming together.
Man of the Match: Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Eden Hazard enjoyed another magical and mesmerizing performance for Chelsea, as he played a decisive role in inspiring them to victory. He made an immediate impact with his opening goal inside three minutes and grabbed his brace in the second half to seal all three points, before Moses grabbed a fourth goal.
His jaw-dropping close ball control in the build-up to his first goal made it impossible for Dunk to make an intervention and his off-the-ball contributions were equally as impressive as his on-the-ball actions. He scored twice and was involved in nearly everything Chelsea did going forward, he formed a potent trio with Batshuayi and Willian and was simply unplayable and unstoppable.
Both Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea will be taking part in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup next week. Chelsea host Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge and AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League on 31 January. The Seagulls travel to the Riverside Stadium to face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup and have a relegation six-pointer at Southampton next in the Premier League on 31 January.