This was the performance that Chelsea supporters were waiting to see in 2018. After essentially drawing their last five matches, including a number of goalless draws, Chelsea comprehensively beat Brighton 4-0 courtesy of goals from Eden Hazard, Willian, and Victor Moses.
In recent weeks, Chelsea have been far from their best and have looked lethargic and slow in their play, resulting in a number of low-scoring matches. On Saturday, a return to the 3-4-3 that worked so well for the Blues last season and with Willian and Hazard providing the spark, Chelsea demonstrated that their attack might be returning to form.
Chelsea were rampant early on with Hazard tormenting the Brighton defence, and just three minutes in, Hazard had given the Blues the league. Brighton defender Jack Stephens could only deflect a cross from Victor Moses into the path of Hazard, and Hazard shifted the ball to his right foot and smashed in it high past Mat Ryan.
Willian doubled the lead just three minutes later when a nice series of one-twos in a tight area led to Michy Batshuayi backheeling the ball for Willian to also thump home with authority, and it looked like it might be one of those days for Brighton.
But Brighton had their chances in the first half. Willy Caballero started in goal in place of Thibault Courtois, who was nursing a slight ankle injury, and Caballero had a few shaky moments.
Brighton worked out fairly quickly that Caballero was struggling to deal with crosses into the box, and the hosts began to launch crosses in at every opportunity.
Brighton had a good penalty shout on one of those crosses when Caballero failed to cut out a cross from Solly March on the left. The Argentine parried the cross but not far enough, and Ezequiel Schelotto collected the ball and darted down the right. Caballero stuck out a leg and appeared to catch Schelotto lightly, but referee Jon Moss was unmoved and denied the hosts a penalty that might have been deserved.
Brighton felt aggrieved for a second time when Schelotto again went to ground in the penalty area, this time after Tiemoue Bakayoko put a hand in front of him. Jon Moss again denied a penalty, and Schelotto was booked for dissent in the aftermath after complaining that Bakayoko pulled his shirt.
Had one of the two penalty decisions been given, it may have changed the balance of the match. But Brighton still had their opportunities to make it 2-1.
Tomer Hemed might count himself unlucky to have not scored as the Brighton striker had two free headers on goal, only to be denied by a strong hand from Caballero on the first and by the crossbar on the second.
Caballero also produced a good save to rob Schelotto on a one-on-one chance after he was quicker to Antonio Rudiger’s clearing header than Marcos Alonso.
Hazard’s second goal ensured the win for Chelsea and essentially knocked the wind out of Brighton’s sails. A Chelsea throw-in bounced clear to Willian who played a through ball to set Hazard free. Two good runs from Willian and Batshuayi confused the Brighton defence, and Hazard showed the patience and composure to wait for his space before wrong-footing Ryan and clipping it into the opposite side of the net.
Victor Moses added a bit of gloss to the score when his run through the channels was found by a glorious ball over the top from Charly Musonda. Moses’ first touch was good, and his second touch was even better, rolling the ball past Mat Ryan.
Brighton may rue the two penalty shouts that weren’t given, but Chelsea showed how devastating they can be at their best, and hopefully this win restores the team’s confidence, which has been sorely missing in the last few weeks.