Brighton dent Chelsea’s title hopes as frustration continues for Thomas Tuchel

Poor form of European champions continues with another listless performance

Chelsea defenders Cesar Azpilicueta  and  Thiago Silva collide as Brighton’s Leandro Trossard tries to control the ball during the  Premier League  match at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton. Photograph:  Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Chelsea defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva collide as Brighton’s Leandro Trossard tries to control the ball during the Premier League match at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

 

Brighton 1 Chelsea 1

It will be of little consolation to Thomas Tuchel that he spotted the warning signs as soon as the game began and Brighton started getting on top of Chelsea. This was another disjointed effort from Chelsea and Tuchel, who cut an irritable figure throughout, cannot have been surprised when Adam Webster cancelled out Hakim Ziyech’s goal in the second half.

Brighton had been the stronger side all evening and the European champions, who are winless in four league games, can surely forget about reeling in Manchester City. On this evidence, their main concern should be making sure they do not get dragged into a top-four battle.

It is difficult to kid Tuchel. Chelsea’s manager looked like he was waiting for something disastrous to happen during the first half and he barely offered any celebration when Ziyech gave his side an undeserved lead after 28 minutes.

Tuchel had spent the majority of the early stages flinging his arms in the air in disgust and at times it seemed that he could not believe what he was watching, to the extent it was difficult to detect any improvement in his mood even after Ziyech’s drive from long range had squirmed beyond Robert Sánchez.

Too passive when they lost to City, Chelsea had not convinced before going ahead. Their passing was sloppy and Brighton looked like the sharper side at first. Steven Alzate and Pascal Gross had set a brisk tempo in midfield for the hosts and Chelsea found it difficult to deal with Brighton’s frenetic pressing early on.

The problem for Brighton, though, was a familiar one. They had chances, but they rarely tested Kepa Arrizabalaga. Jakub Moder skewed wide from the edge of the area after combining with Danny Welbeck, who would also bungle an opportunity, and it did not come as much of a surprise when their lack of bite ended up costing them.

Chelsea, who ditched their back three for a 4-2-2-2 system, had started to exert a modicum of control before Ziyech’s goal. Mason Mount had hinted at an understanding with Callum Hudson-Odoi and there was a warning for Brighton when Romelu Lukaku briefly burst into life, loping down the right before presenting César Azpilicueta with a chance to test Sánchez.

While there was not much else from Lukaku before the interval, Chelsea still had players who could conjure something out of nothing. Ziyech, surprisingly selected after disappointing against City, was a case in point. The winger spent the first 28 minutes giving the ball away, but he would let out his frustration in the best possible way, taking a pass from N’Golo Kanté before cutting in from the right and embarrassing Sánchez at the goalkeeper’s near post.

Sitting on the bench by that stage, Tuchel still looked unimpressed. No doubt he had a few choice words to say when Hudson-Odoi, who partnered Lukaku, fired over when he had a chance to double Chelsea’s lead.

Chelsea remained vulnerable. There was a frank exchange of views between Ziyech and Lukaku as they walked off at half-time and Brighton should have levelled at the start of the second half, only for Welbeck to miss from an angle.

Welbeck’s pace was worrying Antonio Rüdiger and Thiago Silva, but the Brighton striker was not alone in causing havoc. Tariq Lamptey kept sprinting at Marcos Alonso, whose booking for fouling the right back was utterly predictable, and Kanté and Jorginho had become increasingly swamped in the middle, the clever interchanges between Marc Cucurella and Alexis Mac Allister leaving Chelsea dazed and confused.

With Lukaku unable to shake off Dan Burn at the other end, an equaliser felt inevitable. Mac Allister went close, Arrizabalaga pushing the Argentinian’s deflected shot away for a corner, but the pressure was growing. The cross came in from Mac Allister and Webster, completely unmarked, crashed a header into the Chelsea net.

Level at last, Brighton threw on Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard. Potter’s side poured forward, though they were lucky to escape when Rüdiger released Lukaku and Sánchez turned the striker’s shot wide.

Tuchel responded, bringing Lukaku, Jorginho and Ziyech off for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Mateo Kovacic, but there was no late show from Chelsea. It would have been undeserved. – Guardian

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