Chelsea and Brighton played out a second 1-1 draw of the season in which we had taken the lead, on this occasion Hakim Ziyech’s first-half opener cancelled out by Adam Webster’s header on the hour.
The Blues found it tough going throughout against a typically enterprising Brighton side, and Thomas Tuchel may well return to London seeing this as a point gained rather than two dropped.
A super low strike from Ziyech on 28 minutes put us in front against the run of play, although for all Brighton’s threat they didn’t seriously trouble Kepa before the break. Callum Hudson-Odoi even had a decent chance to double our lead.
On the hour Kepa was called into action, denying Alexis Mac Allister a leveller, but the respite was temporary as Adam Webster emphatically headed in the resulting corner.
Both sides tried in vain to find a winner with no luck, so a game between two teams that have specialised in draws recently ended in another. It’s Tottenham next on Sunday.
With the games continuing to come thick and fast, Tuchel made three changes to his Chelsea team. Jorginho and Mason Mount returned to the starting XI, and there was also a place in the side for Hudson-Odoi.
Malang Sarr, Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic all dropped to the bench, allowing the Blues to switch to the 4-2-2-2 shape used against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup. Mount and Ziyech played off Romelu Lukaku and Hudson-Odoi.
Jorginho’s inclusion meant he started a Chelsea game for the 150th time. Lewis Hall added an extra defensive option on the bench.
Brighton also made three changes from their last game, a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Friday evening. Adam Lallana, Leandro Trossard and Neal Maupay were replaced by Tariq Lamptey, Steven Alzate and the Seagulls’ scorer in the reverse fixture, Danny Welbeck. They stuck with four at the back and Lamptey in an advanced position.
The Blues struggled to find much rhythm in the opening stages, Brighton’s aggressive high press proving problematic. Jakub Moder shot wide from the edge of the box inside three minutes, and our hosts twice then came close to freeing attacking players in dangerous positions.
Tuchel would have been more pleased by what he saw on the quarter-hour as we strung together our first cohesive attack. Lukaku ran the right-hand channel effectively and teed up Cesar Azpilicueta, whose first-time shot forced Robert Sanchez to palm behind.
Brighton were quickly back on the front foot, though. Midway through the half we survived another scare with the ball bouncing around in the box following good work from Lamptey, and shortly after Welbeck might have made more of a dinked Alzate through pass.
Bolt from the blue
So when our opener arrived in the 28th minute, it felt like something out of nothing! Kante and Ziyech exchanged a flurry of passes to create a yard of space for the latter, who got the ball out of his feet and thundered a 25-yard shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
The pace of Ziyech’s strike and the way the ball skipped off the surface just before reaching Sanchez ensured it was too hot for the Spaniard to handle, while our relatively muted celebrations suggested the players knew they had been well below par.
The goal took the sting out of Brighton’s tail, at least for a while, and in search of a quick second Jorginho shot over after Sanchez had clawed an Alonso cross to the edge of the box.
A good opportunity to double our lead arrived on the stroke of half-time. Ziyech led a counter-attack from inside his own half and moved it on to Hudson-Odoi, who exchanged passes with Lukaku but blasted over in space with the angle narrowing.
Despite the lead, Tuchel would have wanted plenty more from his side when play restarted. He would have to wait to get it as Pascal Gross slipped in Welbeck with not 20 seconds played, but bearing down on Kepa the former Arsenal and Man United man skewed wide.
A switch to 4-3-3 – Mount dropping deeper - did help us establish a bit more control. But back Brighton came, and on the hour they were level.
Kepa had done superbly to tip a deflected Mac Allister shot round the post after Marc Cucurella had got to the byline, but there was nothing he could do from the resulting corner as an unmarked Webster powerfully headed in from six yards out.
The game opened up. Alonso fizzed a shot over from range and Maupay, just on, couldn’t divert a mishit Lamptey shot goalwards.
With 72 minutes on the clock, a clever Toni Rudiger chip freed Lukaku, just onside. He got the ball under his spell and drew a brave save out of the spreadeagled Sanchez. We kept the ball alive from the corner that followed and Azpi narrowly headed a Ziyech cross wide.
Ten minutes remained when Tuchel used all three subs available to him in one go. On came Kovacic, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. Jorginho, Ziyech and Lukaku made way.
As we upped the ante, Mount had calls for a penalty waved away, the surging Azpilicueta couldn’t force a shot off from close range, and the lively Werner saw a curling strike blocked. A final Chelsea corner in stoppage time came to nothing so a point apiece it was for the second time this term.
The Blues are back in action on Sunday when we host Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. That is our last Premier League fixture for four weeks as an international break is followed by the FA Cup fourth round, and then the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.
Chelsea (4-2-2-2): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Thiago Silva, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho (Kovacic 80); Ziyech, Mount; Lukaku (Havertz 80), Hudson-Odoi (Werner 80).Unused subs Bettinelli, Hall, Sarr, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, Pulisic.Scorer Ziyech 28Booked Alonso 59, Rudiger 81
Brighton (4-1-4-1): Sanchez; Veltman, Webster (c), Burn, Cucurella; Alzate; Lamptey (March 76), Gross (Maupay 62), Mac Allister, Welbeck (Trossard 62); Moder. Unused subs Scherpen, McGill, Caicedo, Roberts, Leonard, Ferguson, Caicedo.Scorer Webster 60Booked Burn 80
Referee Kevin FriendCrowd 30,880