Chelsea earned a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Brighton in the Carabao Cup third round. Nicolas Jackson’s second half goal was enough for a vital victory, which halted their 3-game winless run.
Here are five things we learned from the action at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea goal drought finally brought to end by JacksonEmbed from Getty Images
Heading into their match against Brighton, Chelsea faced the unsettling prospect of finishing the month of September without scoring even a single goal over four matches. Needless to say, the relief was palpable around Stamford Bridge as striker Nicolas Jackson scored the match-winner in the 50th minute, rolling the ball past visiting keeper Bart Verbruggen into the bottom corner after some neat build-up play.
On another night, the Senegalese international might have even added to his tally, but in the 62nd minute, he missed a good one on one chance, when his low shot was saved by Verbruggen’s left leg. Moments later, the 22-year-old thought he capped off a tremendously worked goal, with his steered finish into the Brighton net, but the goal was controversially deemed offside, much to the ire of Blues’ boss Mauricio Pochettino on the bench. Despite this, Jackson received a standing ovation for his night’s work when taken off in the 86th minute, as he enters his one-match league ban next week with a vital goal under his belt.
Pressure easing on Pochettino… For nowEmbed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino in his pre-match press conference stressed the need for calm within the club amid worrying form that had produced no wins and no goals in their previous three matches. Yet, the Argentinean must only have truly felt a sense of momentary bliss once the final whistle blew to secure a much-needed triumph for his team.
The Blues’ performance against Brighton would have left their boss feeling very encouraged, as their intense pressing and rapid transitions from defence to attack posed their visitors stern questions in defence, and ensured Roberto de Zerbi’s side could not gain their third straight win over the Blues in all competitions.
Admittedly, the home side were not perfect against the Seagulls, and with a trip across West London to face rivals Fulham on Monday night, Pochettino now must ensure this promising Chelsea performance is not just a blip, but the start of a considerable upturn in results.
Mudryk and Palmer impress in much changed XI
With Pochettino making six changes to his starting eleven from the weekend’s league defeat to Villa, this tricky cup encounter against Brighton gave the precious opportunity for several players to stake a strong claim for a starting berth in the league.
After tonight, two players who definitely improved their standing in the Chelsea squad were attackers Mykhalio Mudryk and Cole Palmer. Mudryk was a constant threat from the very first seconds, with the Ukrainian winger using his searing pace to continually dribble towards goal and create havoc, whilst unnerving opposing full-back Tariq Lamptey. Meanwhile, Cole Palmer was brilliant playing as the team’s no. 10, adeptly finding space to receive the ball and thread passes in behind Brighton’s backline, with his clever assist supplying Jackson for his goal. If they can build upon these performances, these two players may become the cornerstones of a resurgent Chelsea side.
Brighton lacked ruthless edge in front of goalEmbed from Getty Images
For all their good play in this match, Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi will undoubtedly be left frustrated at his side profligacy in front of goal against Chelsea that has seen them exit the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle.
Joao Pedro spurned a golden opportunity to give Brighton the lead, as his shot sailed over the bar in the 24th minute when he failed to capitalize on a misplaced pass from Chelsea keeper Robert Sanchez. The former Brighton shot-stopper then made a sprawling save down low to his left to deny Ansu Fati, as de Zerbi displayed his frustration gesticulating on the touchline.
Solly March had his diving header palmed away by Sanchez in the second half, and when Joao Pedro volleyed the ball over from eight yards out in the 93rd minute, Brighton fans would have sensed it was not to be their night, despite the great opportunities they had throughout the match.
Ugochukwu lucky not to be sent offEmbed from Getty Images
Chelsea were good value for their win here, but the home side definitely rode their luck during notable periods of this game. And midfielder Lesley Ugochukwu will certainly count himself lucky that he did not receive a red card towards the end of the first half.
The 19-year-old, making just his third start since his £23 million summer move from Rennes, received a yellow card for a foul on Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma on the stroke of half-time. And just a few minutes in first-half stoppage time, the French under-21 international was fortunate to escape a second booking after delivering a hefty late tackle on opposing midfielder Carlos Baleba. Ugochukwu understandably erred on the side of caution for the rest of the game to help his team over the line to a pivotal win. However, at a point in the match where Brighton looked to be gaining control of proceedings, might a Chelsea red card have ultimately been the tipping point for the Seagulls to go on and claim victory in West London?