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21 January 2018

Brighton 0-4 Chelsea: Eden Hazard shines as Chelsea crush Brighton

By Soccer News

It was the worst possible start for Brighton in their game with Chelsea as the Blues started off in scintillating style. Eden Hazard and Willian smashed home goals in the opening six minutes to see the Amex Stadium stunned into silence as the reigning champions got what they deserved in the opening stages of the game. Brighton did grow into the match as they had a number of penalty appeals turned down as goalkeeper Willy Caballero struggled, but the first-half was one Chelsea won.

The hosts started the second-half brightly as they looked to get at Chelsea and they hit the bar, but nothing seemed to be sticking for them. Eden Hazard was able to make it 3-0 with a classic goal before Victor Moses put the icing on the cake to make it 4-0 with Chelsea deserved winners. Impressively, the Blues won comfortably without top scorer Alvaro Morata and first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, while Brighton will be nervously looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone with just three points separating themselves from Stoke in 18th.

Chelsea hit Brighton early

Chelsea have been struggling for goals in recent weeks but there was no lack of confidence in front of goal to start as their first meaningful attack ended in them going one up. Michy Batshuayi was forced wide of goal, but instead of losing the ball, he utilised Victor Moses outside of him who drilled in a cross which found its way to Eden Hazard. Of all of the players on the pitch, Hazard was the last person Brighton wanted to be there, and he took a touch to sell his marker before smashing home.

Brighton had brought the problems on themselves as they started in incredibly shaky fashion by playing loose passes and giving the ball away. However, the Blues would not care about this as they had only managed to score one goal in four previous games in all competitions.

For Hazard, it was his 10th goal of the season meaning he is only behind Alvaro Morata for Chelsea, and it was the Belgian’s 100th league goal. With Morata missing due to suspension, Chelsea needed a man to lead from the front, and Antonio Conte will have been hugely relieved to see his most important player once again at his influential best.

Chelsea’s forwards tear Brighton apart again

And just like that, it was 2-0. The game clock had not even reached the 10th minute and the home side were already staring at a mountain as the Blues began to accelerate away from them. Brighton once again lost the ball in midfield which allowed Chelsea to get forward and, with the bit between their teeth, they went for the jugular.

Hazard played the ball to Willian who once again found the Belgian on the edge of the box and the winger, instead of taking a touch, backheeled the ball back into the path of Michy Batshuayi who was not to be outdone as he too backheeled the ball into the path of Willian who smashed his shot into the back of the net. The goal was one that showcased everything that is good about the Blues as their front-three seemed to be communicating through a telepathic link.

Willian’s goal will have been one that was hugely satisfying as the Brazilian has come in for some criticism this season, but he has not ever been criticised for not working hard enough. His strike was a sublime one too as he hit it firmly and in such a way that it curled away from the goalkeeper. It was a fine goal and no more than Chelsea deserved for their fast start.

Brighton denied a penalty as Caballero struggles

With the hosts 2-0 down, they needed something to spark them, and they should have gotten it in the form of a penalty. Willy Caballero palmed a cross back out into the box towards Ezequiel Schelotto who took a touch as the goalkeeper rushed out to meet him. The defender knocked the ball around the former-Manchester City stopper and was taken down by the goalkeeper, but Jonathan Moss waved play on.

Via the replays, it was clear that Schelotto was tripped, and it was surely only a matter of time in the match before VAR came up, with Chelsea feeling hard done by with regard to the video technology in their FA Cup replay against Norwich. Now though, they were probably pleased it wasn’t in use in the game on Saturday.

This moment showcased that Caballero was clearly a little nervous. Indeed, these nerves would not have been alleviated as from a corner he came rushing out to punch the ball, only to be beaten to it by Shane Duffy who headed the ball into the air. Caballero scrambled back to palm the ball behind and to momentary safety, but his nerves were clear for all to see.

Caballero was immense against Norwich in the week, but this did not calm his nerves as his Premier League debut for the Blues in the absence of Thibaut Courtois who was nursing an injury hardly started perfectly. However, he displayed just why he is still a top quality goalkeeper as he denied Tomer Hemed. The forward was left alone at the back post and had a free header that he should have buried as he headed it into the ground only for the veteran goalkeeper to get a strong hand to the ball and stop it from going in.

While Caballero had not impressed with his decision making, that was a save that made up for his shaky start.

Both sides hit the woodwork

Brighton came out in the second-half looking to put Chelea under pressure and they managed this via a series of set pieces that gave the Blues problems. It was another cross that almost saw Brighton cut the arrears in half as Davy Propper rose highest to head an effort against the angle of the post and bar, with Caballero well beaten. Considering the start they had made in the second-45, the goal would not have been underserved, but the chance came and went.

Then it was Chelsea’s turn to hit the post. Hazard was cynically taken down outside of the box and it gave the Blues the chance to put the game to bed. Substitute David Luiz and Marcos Alonso stood over the ball, but it was the scorer of the second goal Willian that hit the free-kick, and it took an outstanding save from goalkeeper Mathew Rayn to tip the effort onto the post and out. The stopper had made a number of saves in the first-half and he was at it again in the second-half as he kept his side in the game.

Hazard kills Brighton’s resistance

As hard as Brighton fought in the second-half, with the game so open, it always felt like Chelsea would get a third, and that is exactly what happened. Willian played a lovely first-time pass in Hazard who was fronted up by a defender. As the Belgian waltzed towards the box, Brighton were able to get a number of men back but they failed to close the man with the ball down. This enabled Hazard to get into the box as he sent Brighton’s defence and goalkeeper the wrong way, with all of the players covering the right-hand side of the goal as Hazard shot to his left.

The goal was one that sums up the talent of the player as his opponents seemed too scared to close him down. Following a number of poor performances, Hazard was back to his very best as he dominated the game, pulling the strings from the middle and tearing Brighton apart with his runs.

Victor Moses was then able to latch onto a long ball to poke home to make it 4-0. The scoreline was perhaps a bit harsh on Brighton who had fought well, but Chelsea deserved to leave with all three points as they finally returned to form.

Brighton: Ryan 7 – Schelotto 7, Goldson 6, Duffy 6, Dunk 6, Suttner 5 – Gross 6 (Kayal 6), Stephens 6, Propper 6  – March 6 (Izquierdo 5), Hemed 6 (Murray 6).

Unused subs: Krul, Hunemeier, Rosenior, Baldock.

Chelsea: Caballero 7 – Moses 7, Azpilicueta 8, Christensen 7 (Luiz 7), Rudiger 7, Alonso 6 (Zappacosta 6) – Kante 7, Bakayoko 7 – Willian 8 (Musonda 7), Hazard 9 – Batshuayi 6.

Unused subs: Eduardo, Barkley, Ampadu, Sterling.

Referee: Jonathan Moss