By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 3 v Brighton 2
Chelsea showed the kind of defensive resilience that has been missing for many games this season as they just about survived losing Conor Gallagher to double yellow cards in the first half and then even extended their 2-1 lead in the second to beat a tired-looking Brighton 3-2 at Stamford Bridge.
But it could all have been different had referee Craig Pawson had not overturned his own decision after a VAR intervention to award a last-gasp penalty to Brighton that could have levelled the score at 3-3.
Both of the Blues’ skipper’s cards were avoidable, but Pawson saw them a warranting a card and so Chelsea were down to 10 men just before the break.
The opening exchanges were a bit like two medium-ranking boxers, unsure of the quality of the opponent – they took things easy, determined not to make an error and hoped things would progress as the rounds moved on.
But gradually the home side took greater control and it was no great surprise they scored on 18 minutes – a hooked overhead effort by Benoit Badiashile almost on the left byline was met by the head of Enzo and the glancer went wide of the despairing dive of Jason Steele and I to the far corner of the Brighton net.
Goal number two came on 21 minutes when after more sustained pressure saw Levi Colwill head home at the far post after connecting with Nicolas Jackson hooked the ball from the left byline.
The former on-load Brighton player saw his effort cleared away by Adam Lallana.
But referee’s Craig Pawson’s online technology watch blipped and the goal was given.
It was Colwill’s first goal for Chelsea and respectful to Brighton, he had a restrained celebration.
Ukraine international winger Mykhailo Mudryk showed some of his impressive array of skills by quickly turning 100 degrees, and setting off for a run on goal. He took four strides before letting fly with a low drive. But the effort, looked good – it went wide of the Brighton goal.
With three minutes of the half left, and Chelsea seemingly losing concentration and control of the ball, the visitors struck and it was a beauty.
The ball was played across the field with little resistance from Chelsea and Facundo Buonanotte picked up the ball on the right, moved forward, cut inside and sent a terrific curler past Robert Sanchez.
Jackson could have put the ball in the net with a glancer but Steele was equal to the task an parried the b all away.
But as the clock turned into the 46 minute, Chelsea skipper Conor Gallagher was given a second yellow and then red card for a senseless foul. And he trudged off the pitch.
The problem for Chelsea now was whether to sit back and try to contain Brighton or go for a third .
The Seagulls made three early substitutions in order to raise the tempo of the game and put the Blues under increasing pressure.
Chelsea broke clear on 61 minutes with Mudryk getting clear but he was challenged by sub James Milner and VAR intervened for a possible penalty.
Pawson was sent to the monitor and predictably gave the spot kick.
Up stepped Enzo and he stroked the ball home – straight down the middle.
Ineffectual Raheem Sterling was then replaced by Cole Palmer.
Ian Maatsen then replaced Jackson on 72 minutes.
Soon it was the turn of Armando Broja to enter the fray and try and keep the energy levels up for the home side – off went Mudryk on 81 minutes.
A soon as 10 minutes were shown by the fourth official as added tome, it gave the visitors a fillip and it was Joao Pedro who headed home the perfect glancing header to reduce the deficit to one.
With 10 seconds left Brighton were awarded a penalty but the ball appeared to hit Colwill’s head rather than his hand, but VAR sent Pawson to the monitor and then pointed to his head to overturn the decision.
In the end 15 minutes were added by the time Pawson finally blew the whistle for the last time.
Teams: Chelsea: Sanchez, Disasi, Badiashile, Silva, Sterling, Enzo, Mudryk, Jackson, Gallagher, Caicedo, Colwill
Subs: Petrovic, Bergstrom, Madueke, Broja, Palmer, Maatsen, Deivid, Gilchrist, Matos
Brighton: Steele, Julia, Gilmour, Lallana, Baleba, Adingra, Ferguson, Van Hecke, Veltman, Buonanotte, Hinshelwood.
Subs: Verbruggen, Milner, Pedro, Grab, Order, Mitoma, Badger-baiting, Kavanagh, Jeremiah-O’Mahony
Referee: Craig Pawson
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