Chelsea had control of the first half, maintaining possession and high position inside Brighton’s half. From there, they waited for openings with the ball, made combinations between the front three between lines, and changed the speed of their attacks quickly as they played forward passes.
To gain their position, Chelsea first had to play through or keep the ball against Brighton’s attempts to press high through their midfielders and front two (fullbacks staying deep and tight to the backline). Brighton won the ball a couple of times from their high pressing, but since Chelsea were able to recover it and sustain periods of possession, the hosts became more selective in their use of energy to press as the half progressed — dropping back to midfield and trying to flood the middle of the pitch with numbers instead.
In midfield, Groß would mark Jorginho and follow him back between Brighton’s central midfielders (making their shape more like a 451), which allowed Chelsea’s central defenders the 2v1 advantage against Murray to keep the ball and look to play forward passes between lines or behind Brighton’s backline. In the final third, Chelsea won a number of set pieces (especially free kicks), but couldn’t move the ball quickly enough against Brighton’s deep defending to create many chances. Instead, individual talent prevailed and saw them take the lead through Hazard’s creation.
When Brighton had the ball, Chelsea’s attempted to win the ball by pressuring the players against the touchline or by intercepting longer forward passes along the ground made by Brighton’s defenders. Kovacic pushed up consistently, followed by Jorginho moving up behind him (Chelsea becoming more of a 442 in these moments), while Hazard was closer to Stephens or Brighton’s nearest central midfielder to force them to move to the side, backwards or play forward into areas where Chelsea could intercept the ball. Brighton had more success when their defenders instead elected to play long passes over the top of Chelsea’s backline, but to do this well with consistency is difficult.
Early on, after Chelsea won the ball high there was immediately the chance for Kovacic to find Hazard running into the box for a chance, but the pass through was inaccurate. Later on, a similar situation occurred where Chelsea recovered the ball in midfield, and this time Willian found Hazard making the same run through on goal and sending Ryan the wrong way to extend Chelsea’s lead and go into the break 2-0 ahead.
Eden Hazard after 33 minutes:— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 16, 2018
Goal ✅ pic.twitter.com/mCGzrqHKQl
Chelsea’s possession improved in the second half, where they played through the middle with more consistency, drew Brighton onto the ball, and found the wings quickly to create chances from crosses — only missing the finishing inside the box. Chelsea created a number of chances and hit the post, but couldn’t increase their lead to three.
The first change of the half came from Brighton, with Andone going on to have a big impact on the game. Brighton began to press from the front with intensity and committed numbers forward and into the box as they attacked to try to get a goal back, which they did after playing through Chelsea’s pressure in midfield and quickly moving forward to the wing to cross the ball into the box.
With Brighton now beginning to build momentum, in a not too dissimilar situation to the one Chelsea faced in the eventual loss against Wolves, Sarri reacted by introducing Loftus-Cheek, who made good impact by causing Brighton significant problems defensively against his physical and technical attributes.
Alongside fellow subs Barkley and Giroud, Loftus-Cheek also increased Chelsea’s defensive capabilities from set pieces and defensive crosses, which were crucial for Chelsea during the final stages of the game against Brighton’s late attacks, and allowed Chelsea to see out the result.
Chelsea took control of the game in the first half, with Hazard displaying his individual talent to create the first goal and taking advantage of a counter to score the second. The second half saw Chelsea improve with the ball in the opening stages to create chances to further extend their lead and kill the game, but they were unable to take advantage. Instead, Brighton came back with intense pressure and committed numbers forward during attacks to pull back one goal and bring themselves into the game for the final stages. Chelsea reacted well through the performance of Loftus-Cheek offensively and the physical characteristics of all three subs to help them see out the game against Brighton’s set pieces and crosses into the box.