The inception of season 2018-19 was full of promise for Chelsea, with Sarri in the driving seat, the Blues were all set to impress. Just like most of the previous seasons, football pundits caught their big fish to critique, the elder of the Hazard brothers. But this season, the Belgian has hardly put a foot wrong.
The numbers are speaking for the man, prior to the Brighton game (16/12/18) in which Eden Hazard was the lone factor separating the two sides, he had registered 8 goals and 8 assists to his name. Playing as the false 9 again, a position Sarri finds befitting for Hazard, he made the most of his time on the pitch (83 mins). With his swift movements, Hazard was seen troubling the Brighton players everywhere in their half, closing on in the midfield to provide support to Kante and others.
With an intent to score he did take his chance in the 17th minute though he didn’t have a clear sight of the goal with two Brighton defenders in front of him. However, what seemed like a rather impulsive attempt was soon made to count. He claimed the ball back as soon as it rebounded from Leon Balogun, drew the defenders away, to the left with him and accurately put the ball for Pedro, who was delighted to show the ball an empty net. Though Brighton’s defense seemed a little all over the place, that should not take any credit away from Chelsea's No.10.
Hazard kept creating chaos in the final third, though at times he missed out on opportunities while looking to pass his fellow mates since due he was efficiently marked by the defenders. Brighton was under constant pressure but was fairing up just fine against their rivals from London. The Brighton defensive line was nearing the Chelsea half, but the ball went to Willian who gave a precise pass to Hazard, although a lot needed to be done from there.
He was clearly onside and went galloping towards the goal leaving the three defenders well behind. It was poor goalkeeping and decision making by the Brighton goalkeeper Ryan who seemed to be in two minds, trying to charge towards Hazard and then just decided to stand tall, but Hazard completely outdid his amateur efforts and solidified Chelsea’s case breaking his drought, scoring after almost a month in Premier League.
In the second half, Chelsea had the momentum and from the initial minutes itself, they were keeping Brighton on the edge. Soon, Pedro found Chelsea right-back, Azpilicueta, who delivered a low cross, but Hazard and Kante both fell just short of capitalizing which after some fuss came to Pedro who though imbalanced, shot it over the bar. Chelsea kept their domination in the game for most of the time, with the full-backs attempting to cross frequently.
Hazard’s influence on the game would just not go unnoticed as he was becoming a major issue to deal with by Brighton players who ended up fouling him quite often, and Brighton center back Dunk found himself booked for a sliding challenge on Kovacic right after he pulled progressing Hazard’s t-shirt. Pedro and Willian kept coming to Hazard’s support as they tried to be on the receiving end of Hazzard’s crosses, which were dealt fairly well by Brighton defense. Hazard was crucial again, withdrawing some men with him then nicely putting the ball for left-back Marcus Alonso, who came the closest in the second half to score Chelsea’s third goal of the night, denied only by the post.
But Brighton was not ready to give up yet, they pulled one back successfully in a not so fancy way. David Luiz could have shielded the ball a little better, but March made the most of the slight chance that they had, pulling one back for Brighton. Despite a close fight put towards the end, the one-goal lead proved to be good enough for Brighton. The man of the match Hazard, was taken off in the 83rd minute as he experienced some discomfort and was substituted by Olivier Giroud who in recent times has brought decisive goals for Chelsea in times of need.
Post the win, Chelsea stands 4th in the Points Table with 37 points, 3 points ahead of Arsenal who tasted their first defeat after their 22-match unbeaten run.