Chelsea vs Brighton and Hove Albion. Premier League.
Report and highlights as Enzo Fernandez and Levi Colwill headers put hosts ahead before Facundo Buonanotte pulls one back and Conor Gallagher is shown a second yellow; Blues extend lead through Fernandez before Joao Pedro sets up nervy finish; it's Chelsea's second PL win at home in 15
Sunday 3 December 2023 17:53, UK
Ten-player Chelsea impressively battled to a rare Stamford Bridge win on Sunday, with their action-packed 3-2 victory over Brighton lifting them back into the top half of the Premier League table.
Mauricio Pochettino's side surged into a two-goal lead midway through the first half with Enzo Fernandez and Levi Colwill, one of several Chelsea players with Brighton connections, heading in their first Premier League goals for the club as the Seagulls struggled defensively without suspended skipper Lewis Dunk.
But Facundo Buonanotte curled in a fine effort to pull one back for the visitors and when Conor Gallagher was rightly shown a second yellow card after a succession of fouls, Chelsea had it all to do to see out the win.
This was the second game in a row Chelsea's captain has been sent off, with Gallagher's dismissal following Reece James' red card at Newcastle last weekend. But while the Blues' performance went from bad to worse at St James' Park when they went down to 10, they were galvanised here - and restored their two-goal advantage from the penalty spot just after the hour mark.
Mykhailo Mudryk turned on the turbo as he raced onto a through ball from Nicolas Jackson and went flying when contact came from James Milner as he entered the box. Referee Craig Pawson initially waved away the penalty appeals but when VAR Jarred Gillet sent him to the monitor, a spot-kick was given. The initial shoulder-to-shoulder contact between the players appeared legal but Milner then caught Mudryk's foot as the pair went tumbling.
Fernandez dispatched the penalty with composure - but Joao Pedro flicked in a 92nd-minute corner to set up a grandstand finish.
The travelling supporters thought there was a 100th-minute twist in their favour when ref Pawson was again sent to the monitor by VAR Gillet - but a cross had clearly hit Colwill in the head rather than his arm. It was a strange decision from the VAR to ask for the pitchside check and the cheers from the Brighton fans were drowned out when they mistakenly assumed a spot-kick would be given.
The final whistle was greeted with delight by the Chelsea players and fans - this was just their second Premier League win at home in 15 matches. "We were very competitive," said Pochettino afterwards. "This is hard to win with one [player] less for more than 60 minutes. It was an important victory for us because after Newcastle we had to show a different face and I think the response was really good."
It will be an especially satisfying one for former Seagulls goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, who had to endure a second-half barrage from the Brighton fans behind him after almost allowing the ball to run under his foot and in during the first half. After full-time he appeared to be involved in a confrontation with opposite number Jason Steele and Dunk, who had come onto the pitch.
It wasn't a surprise to see tensions spill over. There was real edge throughout this game between Chelsea and a Brighton side who have seen key players and staff snapped up by the hosts over the past 18 months, but the victorious Blues are now up to 10th in the table, above Brentford on goal difference.
Brighton, who did the double over Chelsea last season, may feel frustrated by the penalty call and aggrieved their former midfielder Moises Caicedo didn't receive a second yellow card of his own to follow Gallagher down the tunnel. They have now failed to win four of their five games that have followed a Europa League match and after the celebrations on Thursday night for their progress in that continental competition, this returned them to earth. They stay eighth.
Chelsea: Sanchez (7), Disasi (6), Silva (7), Badiashile (7), Colwill (7), Caicedo (6), Fernandez (7), Gallagher (4), Mudryk (7), Sterling (7), Jackson (7).
Subs: Palmer (6), Maatsen (6), Broja (6)
Brighton: Steele (6); Veltman (7), Julio (7), Van Hecke (7), Hinshelwood (6); Gilmour (7), Baleba (6), Adingra (6); Ferguson (6), Lallana (6), Buonanotte (7)
Subs: Milner (5), Mitoma (6), Pedro (7), Gross (6), Baker-Boaitey (6)
Player of the match: Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea)
The previous Premier League game at Stamford Bridge was the thrilling 4-4 draw with Manchester City and this one was filled with drama from the first whistle too, with three goals and a red card during a rollercoaster first half.
Brighton may have bossed the early possession but it was Chelsea who were carving out the chances, and they were in complete control after Fernandez had headed in when Benoit Badiashile's hooked the ball into the danger zone and Colwill nodded another just over the line despite the best efforts of Gilmour. Both goals came from Gallagher corners and he would be involved in another huge moment later in the half.
There was a scare for Sanchez when he allowed the ball to roll under his foot near his goal but Brighton's first shot didn't come until 37 minutes in and Chelsea had continued to threaten through Nicolas Jackson's runs in behind, Fernandez pushing into the box and with Raheem Sterling testing young left-back Jack Hinshelwood. Steele made a fine save to prevent an Igor Julio own goal from Mudryk's cross.
But the momentum of the match swung in the final minutes before half-time. There was a moment of real quality from Buonanotte to bend into the far corner after cutting in from the right and running at Colwill. Gallagher then gave Brighton a helping hand with a senseless foul on Gilmour in the middle of the park.
The stand-in Chelsea captain had been testing the patience of referee Pawson throughout the contest with his tough and rough tackling, but despite being shown a yellow earlier in the half for a late one on Buonanotte Gallagher didn't relent and left his team-mates with a big task in the second half.
It was a challenge they rose to. Despite Caicedo dicing with a second yellow of his own, 10-player Chelsea were the next to score, with Mudryk's pace proving too much for Milner. Was it a clear and obvious error for VAR to advise a pitchside check? That is the debate Brighton fans will have but Milner's contact to the legs of Mudryk gave him a problem.
Fernandez's cool penalty was in contrast to the rest of this match, which seemed to be played at 100mph. It went up a gear in the final 30 minutes.
Before Pedro headed in Brighton's second, Kaoru Mitoma and Pascal Gross - on three occasions - were denied by Sanchez. Gross eventually got an assist with his corner but Sanchez was excellent in the final minutes to prevent Evan Ferguson or Pedro from grabbing a last-gasp equaliser.
Tempers spilled over after full-time, with Sanchez at the centre of it all. But he and Chelsea come away from this heated contested with a much-needed and morale-boosting three points.
Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino to Sky Sports: "Overall game we deserved the victory because when you analyse the game I think we play the game in every single period that the game expected from us. We were very competitive, this is hard to win with one [player] less for more than 60 minutes. It was an important victory for us because after Newcastle we had to show a different face and I think the response was really good.
"I told the players at half-time, this is a massive opportunity and challenge to show we are a real team. The start of the second half, we dropped a little bit in the way we needed to play but with one less we need to challenge a very good team in Brighton. We competed really well and we scored a good goal with one less.
"We need to use these type of victories to build our confidence, because that is massive for us to build our confidence. We are a young team and we're trying to play the way we want to way."
On a second sending off in two games: "No I'm not worried [about the discipline], we have nice guys. The only thing that the Premier League is really competitive and we cannot underestimate. When we say you're a young team, it's a young team that needs experience in the Premier League to compete. Sometimes because the expectations of the challenge ahead, and sometimes with the up and downs we need to be a little bit more calm in our actions. I am happy as this is part of the process."
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi to Sky Sports: "I think we played better than Chelsea, better than the last game in the Europa League, better than the Nottingham Forest game. But we made three big mistakes and we lost the game. We are very young but we are able to defend better in those situations. I am sorry because we deserved to make a point. I think one point, a draw, was not a very good result for us. You could imagine with a defeat.
"I wouldn't like to speak about referees. The referees are good people and they can make mistakes. The boss of the referee will know what they will do. It's not my business."
On Milner's foul on Mudryk for the penalty: "I think it was a penalty, I can't say nothing more. I am honest. I think it was a penalty."
Chelsea have two tricky away days to negotiate in the next week with a trip to Manchester United on Wednesday, kick-off 8.15pm, before travelling to Everton on Sunday, kick-off 2pm.
Brighton play Brentford next on Wednesday, kick-off 2pm. It's then Burnley heading to the Amex on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.