CHELSEA 1-1 BRIGHTON: This really is a crisis for the Blues. Just two wins in six games, more injuries and a defence so fragile they are there for the taking right now
Does anybody want to challenge Manchester City for this title?
This really is a crisis for Chelsea. Just two wins in six games, more injuries and a defence so fragile they are there for the taking right now.
If Thomas Tuchel and his covid-hit, injury ravaged squad are to recover from this nightmare spell to land then we are in for some climax to the season.
Danny Welbeck, formerly of Manchester United and Arsenal, climbed off the bench to land a knockout blow with the under-siege Blues struggling to fend off a barrage of punches from one of the lowest scorers in the top flight.
Before then Romelu Lukaku looked to have become that person who arrives just at the right time to revive a flagging party.
The £100milion striker headed home from Cesar Azpilicueta’s corner, seconds after Reece James had limped off injured.
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The goal was Lukaku’s second in as many matches. For so long it looked certain to extend Chelsea’s revival after just two wins in six games to derail their title bid.
Then, up stepped Welbeck to head home in the second minute of injury time. Pep Guardiola and his City players probably can’t believe their luck.
They wont get carried away of course. Chelsea and Liverpool’s dip in form almost certainly will be theirs at some point with so many competitions, Covid and injuries certain to strike.
But Chelsea were forced to call on their character and couldn’t see it out. Brighton have won just one game in three months.
Graham Potter and his men looked set for yet another hard-luck story of missed chances and their tenth draw in 14 games in all competitions.
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But yet another Chelsea disaster has left Tuchel and his men needing to beat Liverpool on Sunday to keep their title bid alive.
You can understand why so few rival fans or neutrals have any sympathy over the European Champions’ difficulties. Chelsea still have a stunning squad.
Take the Blues defence. With no Ben Chilwell available, James switched to the left to try and cope with his ex-Academy team-mate Lamptey.
Frustratingly for Tuchel, James then went down and limped off with an apparent hamstring injury after 25 minutes.
Chelsea were still able to call on experienced campaigner Marcos Alonso – and took the lead seconds later.
Cesar Azpilicueta swept in a corner, Neal Maupay’s bid to hold Lukaku backfired and the Belgian striker headed past keeper Robert Sanchez for his 7th of the season.
Chelsea had other chances. Sanchez turned Azpilicueta’s close range effort onto the post in the 16th minute. He also saved with his legs from Mason Mount eight minutes later.
But Brighton gave as good as they got – and then some.
Either side of the break, Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy saved from Adam Lallana’s strike and Jakub Moder turned Lallana cross over the bar.
Mendy then saved well from Yves Bissouma’s fierce volley.
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But Chelsea will rue Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount over-complicating a two-on-one, allowing Joel Veltman to intercept when the Blues should have doubled their lead.
Still there was fire in the Brighton bellies. Alexis MacAllister rounded Mendy but was forced wide. He cut the ball back to Maupay – only for Antonio Rudiger to produce a last-ditch block.
Veltman responded in kind with four minutes left, throwing his body on the line to deny Lukaku.
It proved crucial, allowing Welbeck to strike the hammer blow that leaves Chelsea’s title bid in pieces.