Chelsea 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 0: Insipid Seagulls well beaten by Chelsea
Brighton & Hove Albion produced an insipid performance as they fell to a limp 3-0 defeat at Chelsea in the Premier League this evening.
Goals from Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek sealed the most comfortable of victories for the hosts, with the Seagulls never looking like troubling the Stamford Bridge-outfit.
Chris Hughton made four changes from his side's 1-0 home defeat to Southampton last Saturday. Florin Andone made his first appearance since his injury against Crystal Palace on March 9, while club captain Bruno, FA Cup hero Solly March, and Gaetan Bong returned to the starting XI.
Maurizio Sarri restored Hazard and N'Golo Kante to his squad, as Chelsea made seven changes from their controversial 2-1 at Cardiff City on Sunday.
After making his England debut last week, Callum Hudson-Odoi was finally handed his first Premier League start for Chelsea as Gonzalo Higuain and Willian dropped to the bench.
A quiet ten minutes was punctuated by a Chelsea half-chance. Good link-up play between Giroud and Kante saw the ball played out to the right flank to Hudson-Odoi
The young winger cut inside on to his left foot but his shot was well blocked by Shane Duffy out for a corner, which came to nothing.
Five minutes later and Chelsea had a half-hearted appeal for a penalty. A contested high ball in the box between Kante and Bong saw the French World Cup-winner rather dramatically fling himself to the ground.
Brighton's first sight on goal came on 18 minutes.On the counter, Alireza Jahanbakhsh whipped a deep ball in the area from the left-wing.
The Iranian's cross found March, charging in at the back post, but the Seagulls midfielder could only side-foot his shot into the side-netting.
Giroud had two chances is quick succession for the hosts. From an Azpilicueta cross on 27 minutes, the Frenchman got ahead of his man but his headed attempt went wide.
Neat Chelsea build-up saw the ball once again go out to Hudson-Odoi who found the Blues targetman in the area, but Duffy was on hand to superbly block the shot,
On the half-hour mark March was replaced by Anthony Knockaert due to injury. Moments later another Hudson-Odoi cross created an opportunity for Chelsea as he found Azpilicueta in the area but the Spaniard got his header all wrong,
Good strength from Giroud on 35 minutes saw him knock the ball down in the area for Hazard, but the Belgian blazed his half-volley high and wide.
After spells of lengthy, laborious possession without seriously threatening Mat Ryan and his Brighton defence, Chelsea eventually conjured up a clear-cut chance.
On 38 minutes, a delicious ball out to the right flank from Hazard found, you guessed it, Hudson-Odoi. The Blues starlet sent a low ball into the box and Giroud was on hand to poke home at the near post and give Chelsea a somewhat deserved lead.
On the stroke of half-time Hazard drove down the left and clipped a ball into the area. The cross went over the head of Bong at the back stick, landing at the feet of Hudson-Odoi.
With the goal at his mercy, the young winger contrived to air-kick the ball and spurn a glorious opportunity to double the lead.
The start of the second-half was much the same as the first, with the first chance coming ten minutes in.
Jorginho, at the edge of the D, sprayed a wonderful diagonal ball into the box. Hudson-Odoi made a buccaneering run into the area, outleaping Bong, but his header was easy taken down low by Ryan.
The hour mark saw Chelsea double their lead. Quick link-up play saw Loftus-Cheek feed the ball to Hazard on the edge of the area.
The Belgian winger shaped to shoot but delightfully feinted past Lewis Dunk, bringing the ball onto his left foot.
Hazard brought the ball back onto his right and fired gorgeous into the bottom corner from 18-yards out past Ryan.
Three minutes late and Loftus-Cheek got in on the act with an almost cardboard copy of Hazard's goal. This time the Belgian turned provider as he laid the ball off to the England international.
From 25-yards out, Loftus-Cheek bent the ball beautifully into the top-right hand corner to triple the advantage for the hosts.
And Chelsea could have made it four on 69 minutes. Kante poked over the bar from a Hazard cross with Brighton's defence all-at-sea.
With ten minutes to go, Brighton finally forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into a save. A corner found substitute Bernardo on the edge of the area but his effort was easily taken by the young Spanish keeper.
With the last action of the game, Seagulls skipper Dunk launched a long ball out from the back to Knockaert, The Frenchman found himself one-on-one with Arrizabalaga but the winder produced a woeful dinked effort that summed up Brighton's evening.
With Manchester City up next for Albion in the semi-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday, Seagulls boss Hughton, and the supporters, will be hoping tonight's performance was a one-off.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta (Zappacosta 73), David Luiz, Christensen, Emerson, Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Kovacic 82), Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Hazard (Willian 83). Unused: Caballero, Rudiger, Barkley, Higuain.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan, Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong, Stephens, Propper, Bissouma, Jahanbakhsh (Bernardo 75), Andone (Murray 70), March (Knockaert 31) . Unused: Button, Burn, Kayal, Izquierdo.
Referee: Graham Scott