Friday 18 October 2019

Frank's feel-good factor banishing the Bridge blues

Chelsea 2 Brighton 0

Jorginho celebrates Chelsea’s first goal. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Jorginho celebrates Chelsea’s first goal. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Stamford Bridge is in danger of becoming the happiest ground in the Premier League. The crowd remained patient even when Chelsea were struggling to break Brighton down and it turned into a carnival atmosphere once Frank Lampard's side, gifted a lead by a catastrophic error from Adam Webster, pulled clear of limited opponents in the second half.

Such is the effect of having Lampard in the dugout during these transitional times for Chelsea, whose fans were not quite as understanding when it was Maurizio Sarri standing there last season. Even Jorginho's name is bellowed from the stands these days, signalling how the mood has changed. A divisive figure under Sarri, the Italy midfielder has emerged as a leader at the start of his second year in English football and it was his penalty that eased Chelsea towards their first home win in the league under Lampard.

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It was an afternoon when Chelsea's senior players outshone the youngsters. Lampard praised Jorginho's coolness under pressure and the points were made safe by Willian's first goal of the season, though Brighton's toothlessness should not be overlooked when it comes to analysing how the Blues managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time since May. Graham Potter's side, winless since the opening day and a point above the bottom three, mustered one shot on target.

Not that it was entirely straightforward from Chelsea's perspective. They were tense before Jorginho, who had an excellent game, broke the deadlock in the 50th minute and Lampard admitted to feeling some anxiety after seeing Tammy Abraham, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley and Pedro spurn fine opportunities in the first half.

"You could have almost felt the frustration at half-time," Chelsea's manager said. "Now it gives not just the players but the fans confidence. My message to the players was not to get despondent, not to feel flat, not to get sloppy. It was to keep playing at pace. Because of not winning here, you fear the worst. But there was a different feel today. When the ball moved quickly it looked good."

Chelsea were on top from the start, dominating territory and the ball, but they fell flat after Abraham nodded Mason Mount's free-kick against the post in the 15th minute. Barkley, handed a rare start in the absence of the hamstrung N'Golo Kanté, twice endangered his side by losing the ball in dangerous positions and there were howls of frustration when Alonso volleyed over from close range.

It was just as well that Brighton were in a giving mood. They played out from the back throughout and paid for their bravery when Webster suffered a brain-freeze shortly after the restart, dithering on the ball in his own area, losing it to Mount and tripping the Chelsea midfielder in an attempt to salvage the situation. "It's not the player's responsibility, it's mine," Potter said. "We ask them to play that way."

Webster was booked and, after all the nonsense before Barkley's miss in the recent defeat by Valencia, there were no arguments about who should take the penalty. Barkley and Willian both stepped aside, allowing Jorginho to clip a firm shot past Ryan.

Brighton managed a brief flurry, going close when Steven Alzate's deflected shot trickled inches wide and Dan Burn headed against the bar from a corner, but Chelsea regained control after replacing Barkley with Mateo Kovacic. Callum Hudson-Oodi also came on for his first league start of the season and Chelsea, who could have Kanté available when they face Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday, sealed a deserved victory when Willian's shot beat Ryan in the 76th minute.

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