Chelsea survived a second half fightback to earn a 2-1 win against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday afternoon, with goals from Pedro and Eden Hazard securing the three points for Maurizio Sarri's side.
Chelsea took the lead in the 16th minute, as Eden Hazard broke into the penalty area before sliding a pinpoint pass across the face of goal for Pedro to tap in from close range. The Blues doubled their lead on the half hour mark, as Leon Balogun's misplaced pass allowed Willian to feed a ball through to Hazard, who powered forward and cooly slotted home.
The Seagulls hit back midway through the second half, as Solly March volleyed into the net from inside the penalty area. Despite a much improved performance from their first half showing, Brighton were unable to score a second, and Chelsea held on for the win.
This game was a bit of a free hit for Chris Hughton's side, with their safe mid-table spot allowing them the licence to have a crack at the Blues. The first half performance was particularly poor, with the Seagulls affording their opponents far too much respect and time on the ball. While they improved considerably in the second half, it was too little too late for the south coast side.
Brighton made a real go of it in the second half, and were arguably the better side. The Seagulls should have taken inspiration from Wolves' recent victory over Chelsea, and gone for the jugular early on.
Player Ratings: Ryan (6); Montoya (6), Balogun (5), Dunk (5), Bernardo (6); Groß (5), Stephens (5), Pröpper (6); Knockaert (6), Murray (5), March (7).
Substitutes: Andone (6) Bissouma (N/A) Locadia (N/A)
Star Man - Solly March
On a frustrating day for the Seagulls, March's performance will have given the fans plenty to cheer about. The 24-year-old, who came into the match with five assists in his previous five games, was his side's most effective player by far, and was rewarded for his bold play with a goal in the second half.
Here's how his performance went down on social media:
Solly March is really good.— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) December 16, 2018
Solly March showed class. Top player!— Akerlof (@sijisoares) December 16, 2018
Solly March has been good for Brighton.— Zoro⚔️ (@karthik_jammy) December 16, 2018
Worst Player - Glenn Murray
With David Luiz struggling for form on the road this season, it was an ideal opportunity for Murray to cause Chelsea some real problems with his physical style of play. The veteran striker was starved of opportunities, but when he did find himself with the ball he repeatedly gave possession away, and offered little in the way of attacking threat.
KEY TALKING POINT
Heading into the game, a number of Chelsea fans questioned the choice to play without an out-and-out striker. Hazard proved that the club's lack of a top quality striker can be dealt with for the time being, leading the line for his side with aplomb.
Come January, with Álvaro Morata injured and still struggling for form, Sarri will surely look to bring in a reliable striker. In the mean time, Hazard has proven himself worthy of leading the line, and his inclusion alongside Willian and Pedro allows the side to play some real luxury football.
Player Ratings: Kepa (7); Azpilicueta (8), Rüdiger (7), Luiz (8), Alonso (6), Kanté (7), Jorginho (8), Kovacic (7), Pedro (8), Hazard (9), Willian (8).
Substitutes: Loftus-Cheek (7) Barkley (6) Giroud (N/A)
Star Man - Eden Hazard
Despite enraging some sections of the Blues faithful with repeated hints at leaving the club next summer, Hazard put his off-the-field antics behind him on Sunday afternoon, turning out a performance of the highest quality in the false nine position. Leading the line, the Belgian ace caused the Brighton defence no end of problems, with his direct running cutting them to shreds.
Setting up Pedro's opening goal and scoring a top quality effort of his own, the former Lille man looked more than able to lead the line for his side, and could well continue to feature in the position until the Blues can sign a new striker. Here's how his stellar performance went down on social media:
Hazard was superb today😁— Cian (@Kxnte7) December 16, 2018
If you don't think that Hazard is the best player in the Premier League, you don't know football. It's that simple.— ¹⁰ (@ClinicaIEden) December 16, 2018
HAZARD YOU GENIUS— Hazard Stuff (@HazardStuff_) December 16, 2018
Eden Hazard goal and assist within 30 minutes.— Pys (@CFCPys) December 16, 2018
Best in the league won’t tell you again.
Eden Hazard looks like he is coaching a class of kids here - so much higher is the quality of his football than that of anyone else.— Dan Levene (@danlevene) December 16, 2018
Worst Player - Marcos Alonso
While Chelsea are playing some fine football under Maurizio Sarri, the switch from a back three with wing-backs to a back four has caused some real problems for their defence; in particular, for Marcos Alonso. The Spain international once again looked uncomfortable in the left-back position, frequently shirking his defensive duties and almost getting sent off late on.
Chelsea will look to continue their solid run of form next week when they take on Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, before hosting Leicester City at Stamford Bridge next Saturday. Brighton will hope to bounce back, when they travel to face Bournemouth next weekend.