Match Report: Brighton 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea moved up to sixth in the Premier League table with a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion.

Mauricio Pochettino’s 50th game in charge of the Blues ended with his side making it four consecutive Premier League wins for the first time since October 2022.

Cole Palmer’s 22nd Premier League goal of the season – and his 27th in all competitions –plus a second from Christopher Nkunku helped the Blues move three points above Newcastle United and Manchester United in seventh and eight respectively, after the Red Devils beat the Magpies 3-2 tonight.

It means Chelsea head into their final game of the season at home to Bournemouth on Sunday knowing victory would guarantee us European football next season.

Mauricio Pochettino made one change to his starting line-up, as Malo Gusto came in at right-back, Trevoh Chalobah shifted over to centre-half and Thiago Silva moved to the substitutes bench. Ben Chilwell was also back in the match-day squad for the first time in almost a month, as Axel Disasi dropped out.

Top-four form

The Blues’ steady improvement this season means only three teams have picked up more Premier League points than Chelsea (35) since Boxing Day 2023 – the current top three: Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Chelsea started the game brightly at the Amex and Noni Madueke forced a save from Bart Verbruggen as early as the third minute when he cut in from the right flank and had a low left-footed shot from the edge of the area palmed away.

Simon Adingra shot wide for Brighton, following good play by Chelsea Academy graduate Tariq Lamptey, soon after and Cole Palmer had an effort from 20 yards comfortably saved before a moment of controversy.

Penalty appeal

The Blues were awarded a penalty when former Brighton defender Marc Cucurella – making his 50th start for the club – was brought down by Facundo Buonanotte but after a lengthy VAR check, which involved referee Michael Salisbury coming to the pitchside monitor, the decision was overturned.

The Blues continued to go in search of the opener and a minute after Julio Enciso headed over, the returning Gusto struck a dipping 25-yard shot which was heading in had it not been pushed over the bar by Verbruggen.

Opening goal

The game’s opening goal did arrive just after the half-hour mark when Palmer stooped low to head Cucurella’s cross from the left beyond the diving Verbruggen and into the far, top corner.

The Blues might have had a second had it not been for an impressive block from Lewis Dunk as a slick move down the right saw Palmer side-foot Gusto’s low cross goalwards, only to be stopped by the England defender.

Chelsea thought the second had arrived in injury-time when Benoit Badiashile crossed expertly to the far post and the ball was nodded in from close range by Jackson, but the forward had just strayed into an offside position.

With nine minutes of injury-time, there was still time for Jackson to go close once more before the break when he toe-poked Palmer’s low cross over the bar.

End-to-end

But the first-half action wasn’t finished there, as another dangerous cross from Lamptey on the right picked out the head of Joao Pedro and he rattled the crossbar.

The second period started at the same frantic pace and Brighton had a penalty appeal waved away inside the opening minute when Adingra went down under the challenge of Gusto.

The end-to-end nature continued a minute later when a counter-attack from Chelsea ended with Nkunku shooting just wide from outside the area.

Chelsea’s counter-attacks continued to cause Brighton problems and Gusto was next to shoot wide of the far post from the right-hand side of the penalty area.

Lamptey was causing problems down the right and Pascal Gross will feel he showed have scored when he prodded the ball wide of the near post from inside the six-yard box following another dangerous cross.

It felt like only a matter of time before the game’s next goal and it came in the 64th minute when Gusto drove inside the penalty area and pulled the ball across the box for Nkunku to direct the ball past Verbruggen.

Red card

There was to be a disappointing end to the night for the Blues though when James was given a straight red card for violent conduct following a VAR review which appeared to show the defender kicking out at Joao Pedro while the skipper was laying on the floor.

Brighton continued to search for a way back into the contest during ten minutes of injury-time and Adingra rattled the post with a volley across goal.

The Blues had to endure a nervy finish when in the eighth minute of injury-time, a low cross from the left by Joao Pedro was poked home at the near post by Danny Welbeck.

But we managed to hold on for all three points and move up to sixth place.

What it means

Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Brighton means we are now in sixth position and three points ahead of both Newcastle United and Manchester United.

Tottenham Hotspur are fifth but with only three points separating us and the Blues having a superior goal difference of four, it means we go into our final game with the possibility of finishing fifth, six, seventh and technically eighth, although the latter would take a remarkable set of results with Pochettino’s men three points and 17 goals better off than the Red Devils.

It is still not exactly clear which position you need to secure European football next season due to Manchester United reaching the FA Cup final.

Should the Red Devils lose to rivals Manchester City, then fifth and sixth will lead to qualification for the Europa League, with seventh securing passage to the Europa Conference League.

If Erik ten Haag’s men beat City on May 25, then one of the Europa League places will go to United and then sixth will become a Europa Conference League spot, with seventh missing out on European football next season.

What is next

Chelsea’s season will come to an end on Sunday at home to Bournemouth, whilst Tottenham travel to Sheffield United, Newcastle visit Brentford and Manchester United will be at the Amex against Brighton.

The teams

Brighton (4-2-3-1): Verbruggen; Lamptey (Offiah 85), Webster, Dunk (Barco 46), Igor Julio; Gross, Gilmour (Baleba 70); Buonanotte (Welbeck 70), Enciso (Fati 85), Adingra; Joao Pedro

Unused substitutes: Steele, Lallana, Moder, Atom

Bookings: Dunk 29, Verbruggen 80

Goals: Welbeck 90+7

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petrovic; Gusto (James 69), Chalobah, Badiashile, Cucurella; Gallagher (Ugochukwu 90+8), Caicedo; Madueke (Sterling 69), Palmer (Casadei 90+8), Mudryk (Nkunku 42); Jackson (Thiago Silva 89)

Unused substitutes: Bettinelli, Chilwell, Colwill

Bookings: Sterling 77, Caicedo 79

Red card: James 88

Goals: Palmer 34, Nkunku 64

Referee: Michael Salisbury

Attendance: 31, 555

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