Report: Chelsea 3 Brighton 0

Three quality goals ensured three points for the second time in four days as Chelsea stay in contention for a top-four finish.

The Blues succeeded in taking the lead in a league game for the first time since Fulham a month ago and it was a goal that owed everything to the penetration of Callum Hudson-Odoi and the predatory instincts of Olivier Giroud.

The other two goals were scored in quick succession after half-time, the first an Eden Hazard special, his 17th strike of the season, while goal number three was a rocket from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, his eighth of the campaign.

Although Tottenham also winning on the night they returned to White Hart Lane means we have not climbed above those north Londoners in the table, we now sit fifth above Manchester United and with a boosted goal difference after tonight’s three-goal haul.

Hudson-Odoi caught the eye on more than one occasion having been handed his much-anticipated first Premier League start, one of seven changes from the side that played at Cardiff as Maurizio Sarri looked to freshen it up during this busy period.

He entirely changed the front three with Hazard returning and Giroud given the centre-forward role. N’Golo Kante was back to make his 100th league appearance and in defence, Emerson was in for hamstrung Marcos Alonso while Andreas Christensen was given a start in place of Toni Rudiger.

Hudson-Odoi would go on to play a big part in the first goal and it was he who was first to offer a goal threat on a chilly night at Stamford Bridge. It took 10 minutes of the game but when Kante burst through down the inside-right channel, he sent the ball out to the 18-year-old and it took a stretch and a block from Shane Duffy to divert the shot off-target.

Another block denied Giroud when the Frenchman chested a Jorginho chip and attempted to score on the swivel while at the other end, Solly March volleyed wide for Brighton so we reached the midway point of the first half goalless.

The next quarter of the game was brighter. Giroud certainly looked all set to score when Hudson-Odoi crossed low but some diligent defending by Duffy denied the Blues again.

Hudson-Odoi was operating down the right and on 32 minutes, he sent the ball into the near-post area where Azpilicueta popped up but his header was more like one expected of a defender than a striker and it flew wide.

Someone more used to goalscoring positions, Hazard, had the crowd anticipating the opening goal before he blasted over the bar from a Giroud knockdown, but the breakthrough did come before half-time when Hudson-Odoi and Giroud combined so well.

Olivier Giroud opens the scoring

Hazard had picked out the younger of the pair on the flank and with a shimmy sideways, Hudson-Odoi beat Anthony Knockaert, an early substitute for the Seagulls, on the outside and Giroud did the rest with one touch of his boot from close-range at the near post despite close attention. It was a masterful finish and his first goal in the Premier League since the defeat against Spurs at Wembley back in November.

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As in the first half, it was Hudson-Odoi who had the first go at goal after the break, 10 minutes in again as well. Jorginho lofted a ball forward but his colleague’s header was saved by Mat Ryan.

There was nothing the Aussie goalie could do however nine minutes later when Hazard left Lewis Dunk on the floor on the edge of the area and then expertly curled the ball into the far side of the Matthew Harding End net. That was quality and that was 2-0, and soon it was 3-0.

Loftus-Cheek was given plenty of room and he made the most of it with a tremendous strike from 30 yards out. The 23-year-old received plenty of applause when he was later replaced.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek rifles in his eighth of the season

Kante could have scored a fourth for the Blues but sent the ball over from close in, but 3-0 is still enough to give us our best league win at home to Brighton and maintain our 100 per cent league record overall against the south coast side.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c) (Zappacosta 73), Christensen, David Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Kovacic 82), Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Hazard (Willian 84).
Unused subs Caballero, Rudiger, Barkley, Higuain.
Scorers Giroud 38, Hazard 60, Loftus-Cheek 63

Brighton (4-3-3): Ryan; Bruno (c), Duffy, Dunk, Bong, Stephens, Propper, Bissouma, Jahanbakhsh (Bernardo 75), Andone (Murray 70), March (Knockaert 31).
Unused subs Button, Burn, Kayal, Izquierdo.

Referee Graham Scott
Crowd 38,593

FULL-TIME: Blues Up To Fifth

Goals from Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard and Ruben Loftus-Cheek plus a stand-out performance from Callum Hudson-Odoi gave Chelsea a commanding 3-0 win over Brighton to move us up to fifth.

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