LONDON — Frank Lampard’s disastrous opening week to his second stint at Chelsea was completed as they sank to their third successive defeat, with a 2-1 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion on his Stamford Bridge return.
Conor Gallagher put the hosts ahead on 13 minutes in fortuitous fashion as his deflected strike was sent looping over the goalkeeper Roberto Sanchez, But Brighton pushed hard for a leveller. Danny Welbeck pounced on poor defending to draw level shortly before half-time.
Roberto de Zerbi’s side continued to push and their pressure eventually told when Julio Enciso scored a screamer on 69 minutes as Brighton bolstered their claims for European football and claimed their second victory over Chelsea this season.
1. Lampard not the man to change Chelsea’s fortunes
Lampard has legendary status at Chelsea, but he has suffered a joyless start to his caretaker spell until the end of the season, with three defeats in three games. The former Everton manager rung the changes with six alterations to the lineup that suffered a 2-0 defeat to Champions League holders Real Madrid on wednesday.
The caretaker boss opted for pace with Mykhailo Mudryk and United States international Christian Pulisic on the either flank, with Gallagher assuming an unfamiliar role much further up the field alongside Raheem Sterling in a desperate attempt to end their four-match goalless run. Momentarily, it seemed the changes may have been well-judged. Gallagher profited from his advanced role to end his side’s goal drought just 13 minutes in, but as the game progressed Chelsea simply failed to create anything noteworthy.
They have scored just 30 league goals this season and bare the worst attacking record in the league’s top 11. Lampard, Chelsea’s record goal scorer, has shown little promise of improving their fortunes in front of goal as any attacks were largely stifled at source. Gallagher’s advanced role summed up their desperation for a goal-scoring option. Mudryk showed initial promise but fizzled out and Pulisic failed to muster anything of note on his flank.
Lampard has a lot of options at his disposal, and if he is to attract interest for another managerial gig at the elite level, he must find a way to make this Chelsea side tick before the end of the season.
2. Brighton and Chelsea are passing ships
When Graham Potter left Brighton in October to join Chelsea, it seemed an obvious step-up for the developing manager, with the club’s reputation and their huge influx of signings making a European spot seem a formality. But the outlook of both clubs has changed drastically since his appointment, and subsequent departure. Both Thomas Tuchel and Potter have already failed, and Chelsea’s stagnant performance under Lampard was indicative of their poor season.
Brighton have achieved a feat that Chelsea could now only dream of this season and, well-placed for a spot in European football, the Seagulls outplayed Lampard’s side at Stamford Bridge. Brighton were all over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and certainly deserved a more comfortable lead. That comment would have been unthinkable for Chelsea at the start of the season.
Brighton’s double over Chelsea this season has clearly shown the different trajectories of the club. The Seagulls have a great chance of securing European football for next season, either via the league or the FA Cup, and they looked good value for the feat in Saturday’s win. Chelsea are counting on unlikely Champions League glory to restore any pride this campaign.
3. Brighton excellent: mentally and on the pitch
manchester city Boss Pep Guardiola said at a news conference on Friday that Brighton are “the best team in the world in buildup from the back.”
Saturday’s showing at Stamford Bridge certainly backed his claims. And as well as pretty passing triangles and effective ball progression, the side’s mentality stood out. The Seagulls could have wallowed in the pity of last weekend’s defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in which they were deprived of three match-defining officiating decisions, bolstering their position as the worst-affected side by VAR in the Premier League thisseason.
However, De Zerbi’s side showed a strong mentality not only in their response to defeat, but also in going behind at Stamford Bridge in the most unfortunate of circumstances. Chelsea could count themselves lucky to be level at half-time with Kepa Arrizabalaga making two outstanding saves as well as Evan Ferguson crashing a shot off the crossbar at 0-0. Arrizabalaga eventually crumbled under Brighton’s siege with Welbeck heading home just three minutes after being introduced as an enforced substitute to level the game.
Brighton have been an entertaining outfit under De Zerbi. Their surges forward are blistering, and Enciso’s winning goal showed the confidence flowing through his side.
There is a feel-good factor surrounding Brighton’s excellent season, and it is clear to see that on the pitch. They looked like they were having fun against Chelsea, and they certainly don’t wallow when times get tough.
Best and worst performers
Moises Caicedo, Constant energy in midfield and was key to Brighton’s effective turnovers in possession. Has been a virtual ever-present for Brighton this season and the fact he has committed long-term shows the positive strides the club continues to take.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: Made two crucial saves in the first half to keep Brighton at bay. Hard to fault him for the goal.
Wesley Fofana, Lost Welbeck for goal and struggled in a backline which looked unable to cope with Brighton’s energy.
Raheem Sterling: Summed up Chelsea’s struggles in front of goal with little contribution. Was substituted for Joao Felix in Lampard’s desperate roll of the dice.
Christian Pulisic: The game passed Pulisic by as Chelsea failed to build anything down his side until substituted. Look low on confidence in a season which has seen him score just one league goal.
Highlights and notable moments
Gallagher gets lucky to give Chelsea an early lead against Brighton.
After four-straight matches without a goal, Conor Gallagher scores Chelsea’s first goal in almost a month!
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 15, 2023
Welbeck was allowed the freedom to head home an equalizer for the Seagulls.
Impact sub Danny Welbeck!
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 15, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
Will appear here when available…
Prior to this season Brighton’s only win vs. Chelsea was in an FA Cup match in 1933 — this season they have beaten them home and away.
Brighton had 12 shots in the first half, the joint-most on record by an away team at Stamford Bridge (since 2003–04.)
Chelsea: The Blues have the small matter of Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg on Tuesday, when they must try to overcome a 2-0 first-leg defeat. They don’t have a game next weekend as Manchester United are playing in the FA Cup semi-finals. Their next Premier League game is at home to Brentford on Wednesday, April 26.