For roughly two weeks, and almost 400 minutes of soccer, Chelsea had forgotten how to score goals.
It had slumped to three consecutive 0-0 draws for the first time in club history. It finally tallied once in 120 minutes against second-tier Norwich City on Wednesday. But that didn’t exactly quell concerns.
On Saturday, it broke out of its slump in the most stylish way possible. Within six minutes at Brighton, it was 2-0 up and cruising. The second goal was seven seconds and eight touches of Barcelona-esque perfection. (Video above)
The Blues ran out of the Amex 4-0 winners. The third goal was all Eden Hazard. The Belgian attacker caught Brighton on the break, waltzed into the penalty area, and finished cleverly back against the grain:
Chelsea hadn’t looked quite comfortable at 2-0. At 3-0, though, it was in control. Victor Moses sprung forward from his right wing back position to get the fourth.
Manager Antonio Conte decided to scrap his relatively conservative 3-5-1-1 for the game against overmatched Brighton. He drafted the inconsistent Willian into his team, retained Hazard, and finally realized Michy Batshuayi was in fact both alive and still on his roster.
All three played significant roles on the second goal, which was the highlight of the day. It had a bit of everything. It had the swiftness of a great counterattack, the one-touch combination play reserved for the world’s best, and a belting, swerving finish.
The first goal was bit less tidy. A Brighton defender deflected Moses’ cross right to Hazard 12 yards out. But Chelsea’s catalyst still had a lot to do from there:
Three minutes later, Willian had made it two. So to recap, Chelsea scored more goals in six minutes than it had in 390 minutes previously.
It retained the 2-0 lead deep into the second half, despite a few close calls at the other end. Bright right back Ezequiel Schelotto was a pest all afternoon. He had two first-half penalty appeals denied. On another day, one absolutely could have been given.
Early in the second half, he was turned away by Willy Caballero from close range. Davy Propper struck the post with a header as well.
Brighton’s squandered opportunities gave way to more for the visitors, who, for not the first time this season, escaped from the brink of crisis to steady themselves and firm up their place in the top four.
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