Brighton 1-2 Chelsea: Eden Hazard the difference as Blues hold on for victory
Report and highlights as Chelsea stay fourth in the Premier League.
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 16/12/18 11:15pm
Chelsea continued their fine record against Brighton with a 2-1 victory at the Amex Stadium to stay in touch at the top of the Premier League.
First-half goals from Pedro (17) and Eden Hazard (33), who suffered a late injury scare, sent Maurizio Sarri's side on their way to victory but Solly March pulled one back for the hosts in the 66th minute to set up a nervy finish.
Chelsea, who were forced to take Hazard off after he was caught on the ankle by Dale Stephens' late challenge, held on for all three points to stay fourth, eight points behind league leaders Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Brighton, who stay 13th in the league, are still looking for their first win over Chelsea in any competition since January, 1933.
Brighton: Ryan (6), Montoya (6), Dunk (7), Balogun (5), Bernardo (7), Stephens (6), Gross (6), Propper (6), Knockaert (7), Murray (6), March (7).
Subs: Andone (6), Bissouma (n/a), Locadia (n/a).
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga (7), Azpilicueta (6), Rudiger (7), Luiz (7), Alonso (6), Kante (6), Jorginho (6), Kovacic (6), Willian (7), Hazard (8), Pedro (8).
Subs: Loftus-Cheek (6), Barkley (6), Giroud (n/a).
Man of the match: Eden Hazard
Hazard was at the heart of Chelsea's brilliant first-half performance. He produced his fourth assist in as many Premier League games in the 17th minute, producing an exquisite pass across the face of goal to hand Pedro the easiest of finishes at the far post.
Chelsea looked to be in full control but Sarri, who warned his side against complacency when they threw away a lead to lose at Wolves, wouldn't have been happy when Mateo Kovacic's pass across the face of goal gifted possession to March. The Brighton midfielder hit the target from 25 yards but the effort had nowhere near enough power to trouble Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Hazard, who ended a seven-match league run without a goal, then got on the scoresheet, scoring his eighth of the season to double the visitors' advantage. Leon Balogun gifted possession to Willian, whose pass released Hazard and he made no mistake, wrong-footing Mat Ryan to pick out the bottom corner.
Marcos Alonso nearly made the points safe in the 63rd minute, striking a superb 20-yard effort against the post.
But March then set up a tense finish at the Amex, popping up in the penalty area to hook home Bernardo's knockdown.
The visitors, who were forced to take off Hazard after he picked up an ankle knock following Stephens' late tackle, had a scare late on when Alonso hauled down March just outside the penalty area, but the Spain international escaped with a booking, with David Luiz adjudged to have been in position to cover.
March got back to his feet to strike the resultant free-kick high over the crossbar as Chelsea held on for victory.
Chris Hughton made three changes from the side that lost 1-0 at Burnley last time out. Martin Montoya, Dale Stephens and Glenn Murray returned to the starting line-up in place of Bruno, Yves Bissouma and Florin Andone, who all dropped to the bench. Shane Duffy missed out through suspension.
Maurizio Sarri made 10 changes from Chelsea’s midweek draw with Vidi in the Europa League. Willian was the only player to keep his place in the side as the likes of Eden Hazard, Pedro, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, David Luiz, Cesar Apilicueta and Kepa Arrizabalaga returned. Sarri stuck with the same side that beat Manchester City 2-0 last Saturday.
Chelsea have scored 37 goals in the Premier League this season; their most at this stage of a campaign since 2014/15 when they won the title (38).
Five of Brighton's six home defeats in the Premier League have come against the traditional 'big six' teams, including both such defeats this season (1-2 v Spurs and Chelsea).
Chelsea have won each of their seven games against Brighton in league competition; their best 100 per cent record against a single opponent in league history.
Brighton have kept just three clean sheets in their last 19 games in the Premier League, conceding 31 goals in this run.
Chelsea winger Willian has now been directly involved in 50 goals in the Premier League (27 goals, 23 assists); becoming the third Brazilian player in competition history to reach this milestone, after Philippe Coutinho (76) and Roberto Firmino (64).
Only Glenn Murray (8) has had a hand in more Premier League goals for Brighton than Solly March this season (6 - one goal, five assists).
Man of the Match - Eden Hazard
In the end it was Hazard's first-half performance that was the difference between the two sides.
He produced a brilliant pass to set up Pedro's opener before a calm finish wrong-footed Ryan to give him his eighth goal of the season.
Hazard has now been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season (17 in 16 apps) than he was in the whole of last season (16 in 34 apps). He is the first Chelsea player to assist a goal in four consecutive Premier League games since September 2014, when Cesc Fabregas did so.
Chelsea will now be hoping the Belgium international, who was substituted late on, can shake off what appeared to be an ankle knock ahead of their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth on Wednesday.
Chelsea's next task is a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday (7.45pm). Their next Premier League encounter is also at Stamford Bridge against Leicester on Saturday (3pm).
Brighton's next game is also against Bournemouth but in the Premier League. Chris Hughton's men travel to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday (3pm).