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The Media Review: Chelsea

The papers were impressed by Albion's showing at Stamford Bridge.

By Nick Szczepanik • 30 December 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Graham Potter celebrates in front of the Albion supporters at Stamford Bridge.

By now, most reporters for the national newspapers have seen enough of the Albion to know better than to begin composing their intros before the final whistle has blown, especially if Graham Potter’s men are trailing by a single goal.

And, true to recent form, there was another point-saving late strike at Stamford Bridge last night, perhaps the major surprise being that it came from substitute Danny Welbeck rather than added-time specialist Neal Maupay.

Needless to say, with the only two Premier League matches of the day involving title contenders Manchester City and Chelsea, most papers led on the Blues dropping two vital points and more additions to their lengthy injury list. 

But the writers were also unanimous in their view that Albion deserved their share of the spoils. So much so that we can forgive most of them not knowing that the Albion HAD previously scored at Stamford Bridge, just not against Chelsea – Aston Villa were the opponents when Charlie Webb hit the only goal of the 1910 Charity Shield. 

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Welbeck on late Chelsea equaliser

Jacob Steinberg was especially generous in The Guardian. “As Danny Welbeck’s beautiful header sailed beyond Edouard Mendy, it was difficult not to feel that we were witnessing the end of Chelsea’s title challenge,” he began. “The gap to Manchester City stands at an imposing eight points and there was something resigned about the way Thomas Tuchel turned on his heels when Welbeck equalised for Brighton, who would have been the victims of a gross injustice had they left Stamford Bridge with nothing to show for a splendid performance.

“Chelsea could have few complaints after slumping to their third draw in their past four league games. The numbers favoured Brighton, who had more shots and more possession, and the only disappointment for Graham Potter was that his skilful visitors left it so late before equalising.

“Brighton absolutely battered Chelsea in the second half. Yves Bissouma dominated Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in central midfield and Tuchel did not look surprised when Welbeck, introduced with 10 minutes to go, headed Marc Cucurella’s cross into the top corner. ‘We knew this was going to be a tough match,’ Tuchel said. ‘I have not seen one team play a nice match against Brighton.’

By Paul Hazlewood
Yves Bissouma controlled the midfield for Albion.

“There were chances for Jakub Moder, Neal Maupay and Bissouma, while Alexis Mac Allister kept wriggling into space. Chelsea had grown ragged, only restoring a semblance of order when N’Golo Kanté replaced the ineffective Callum Hudson-Odoi.

“Yet Brighton, who felt that Lukaku’s goal should have been disallowed for a foul on Maupay, would not be denied. The game had just gone into stoppage time when Cucurella crossed and Welbeck, rising between Chalobah and Rüdiger, sent a brilliant header past Mendy.” 

The i sent Chief Sports Correspondent Kevin Garside along, and he, too, liked what he saw. “It looked to be big Rom’s night then out of the career shadows rose Danny Welbeck to make double the case for authentic No 9s,” he wrote.

“It was no less than Brighton deserved. For the hour following Lukaku’s own headed opener, Brighton were the better side and Edouard Mendy Chelsea’s central figure, but he could do nothing to keep out Welbeck’s rousing riposte in added time.

By Paul Hazlewood
Antonio Rudiger put in a hefty challenge on Tariq Lamptey in the first half, that saw the Germany international booked.

“Though behind, Brighton were not cowed and in Yves Bissouma and Tariq Lamptey the visitors had two players who would walk into this Chelsea side. Bissouma looked the complete No 8, driving at the Chelsea defence with powerful bursts and smashing into contact. 

“James’s selection on the left was effectively an open invitation for Lamptey to either twist his blood or take some in the tackle. He did both. In this City/Liverpool-lite configuration, Lamptey is often the furthest player forward when Brighton are in possession, a diminutive rapier who packs a punch the inverse of his size. Antonio Rudiger decided the way to subdue Lamptey was to halve him in the tackle. You know the kind, where the player leaps up and says ‘but ref, I got the ball’ while the victim pieces himself together.

“No team has taken the game to the Premier League’s power units with the same courage and imagination of Brighton. For this Potter deserves immense credit and the interest of the English elite.

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Potter: A great feeling

“There would be a few fans of Manchester United watching this salivating at the prospect of a Bissouma or Lamptey in their line-up, not to mention a Mac Allister or Marc Cucurella, and maybe a Potter leading them. After all he seems to know a little bit about goals in Fergie time.”

Darren Lewis of the Mirror wrote that “Brighton gave as good as they got - and then some. 

“Either side of the break, Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy saved from Adam Lallana’s strike and Jakub Moder turned Lallana’s cross over the bar. Mendy then saved well from Yves Bissouma’s fierce volley.

“But Chelsea will rue Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount over-complicating a two-on-one, allowing Joel Veltman to intercept when the Blues should have doubled their lead.

“Still there was fire in the Brighton bellies. Alexis Mac Allister rounded Mendy but was forced wide. He cut the ball back to Maupay - only for Antonio Rudiger to produce a last-ditch block. Veltman responded in kind with four minutes left, throwing his body on the line to deny Lukaku.

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PL Highlights: Chelsea 1 Albion 1

“It proved crucial, allowing Welbeck to strike the hammer blow that leaves Chelsea’s title bid in pieces.”

Matt Law, the Daily Telegraph’s Chelsea man, noticed the part played by a section of the Stamford Bridge support. “Chelsea midfielder Jorginho had resorted to urging the home crowd to hold on to the ball during the final minutes of the game, such was the pressure Brighton had exerted.

“Chelsea's fans duly obliged by refusing to give the visitors the ball back when it went out of play. But the tactic did not look so smart, when, in the time added on for stoppages and time wasting, Marc Cucurella floated in a cross and Welbeck got in between Trevoh Chalobah and Antonio Rudiger to condemn Chelsea to their third draw in four League games.

 “It would not have done much for Tuchel’s mood to find out that the goal was Brighton’s first-ever in the League at Stamford Bridge and he was furious that a second-half penalty claim for a challenge on Christian Pulisic by Joel Veltman was ignored.

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Extended PL Highlights: Chelsea 1 Albion 1

“When Lamptey went close in the 61st minute, Brighton had managed 13 shots on Chelsea’s goal with the hosts only having six of their own. It was barely believable Brighton had not managed to take one of their chances and Lallana was the next to squander an opportunity by volleying over the bar.

“N’Golo Kante’s introduction looked to have seen Chelsea stem Brighton’s tide of attacks, but Welbeck’s stoppage-time header put a huge dent in the hosts’ title hopes.” 

Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail used the ‘never scored at Stamford Bridge’ to joke that “for 90 minutes here, it was tempting to conclude they never would.

“Graham Potter’s side dominated Chelsea for such long periods, passing fluently, generating pressure, forcing errors, creating chances, and simply failing to convert them.

“Then, as the clock ticked into stoppage time, Marc Cucurella bounded down the left and clipped one more cross into the penalty box.

By Paul Hazlewood
Danny Welbeck scored his second goal of the campaign in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

“Danny Welbeck locked on, shifted into the space between Antonio Rudiger and Trevoh Chalobah, sprang high and powered a fabulous header past Edouard Mendy.

“It was a reminder of Welbeck’s aerial quality and a point was no more than Brighton deserved. Potter and his staff celebrated wildly. For Chelsea the late strike was like a punch to the guts. They had led since the 28th minute when Romelu Lukaku headed in from a corner and spent the rest of the game frantically trying to protect their goal.

“Chelsea regained some control with Kante on but Brighton refused to give in and late sub Welbeck pounced in stoppage time, his second goal of the season. Those in the away end rejoiced. Perhaps it was worth the wait.”

Alyson Rudd of The Times noted that “Graham Potter’s team have a woeful record against Chelsea, the only team they have never defeated in a league fixture. The run continues but this result warrants an asterisk for Brighton were audacious and relentless and deserved more.

“Potter’s side, who had ended their 11-game stretch without a Premier League win by defeating Brentford on Boxing Day, fully merited the point if only for playing the more attractive football.

“Brighton began the second half with a dash of flair as Lallana’s clever pass was met by Jakob Moder who attempted to chip Mendy from relatively close range and very nearly pulled it off. A blistering Bissouma strike from 25 yards out could easily have deceived Mendy as the visitors grew in confidence with the increasingly involved Maupay unlucky with several attempts.

By Paul Hazlewood
Danny Welbeck's late goal at Stamford Bridge ensured Albion left with a point on Wednesday night.

“There is something almost ethereal in how often Brighton produce something at the death. This time it was Danny Welbeck, who had not long been on the pitch, who headed in from the invigorated Cucurella’s looping cross in added time.

“Brighton will surely end the campaign with the award for the team who rarely look outplayed while not winning. They were entertaining throughout but lacked a cutting edge until the death against a keeper in form even if the rest of Tuchel’s side were largely below par.

According to Tom Barclay of The Sun, Albion “thumbed their nose at a head-to-head record which showed their only ever win against the Blues came before the Second World War by causing their hosts no end of problems.

“Mendy had to be on top of his game as Graham Potter’s side put together wave after wave of attacks, especially in the second half. 

“It was a typical festive ding-dong of a football match, where fatigue plays its part - as managers like Tuchel never stop carping on about - but the entertainment goes up.

“Lukaku shook off Neal Maupay to power Mason Mount’s corner into the net. Maupay’s protests for a possible foul from the Belgian were waved away by ref Mike Dean and the goal given.

“But instead of giving Chelsea a platform from which to win the game comfortably, it galvanised Graham Potter’s side who were repelled again and again by Mendy.

“Despite the onslaught, Chelsea still should have wrapped it up when Lukaku sent Callum Hudson-Odoi but instead of shooting, the England winger tried to square for Mount and got it horribly wrong.

“And it cost them dearly when sub Welbeck sent the away fans potty in injury time for yet another last-gasp Brighton equaliser this season, following similar scenarios at Crystal Palace and Southampton.” 

Don’t forget West Ham, Tom! And there may be more to come …