They quite conceivably could have been decked in this one by virtue of a strangely poor second half, made all the more weird by how well they had played in the first.
In those opening 45 minutes, they really were on the charge, led by Eden Hazard who was simply menacing every time he came into possession. His assist for Pedro’s strike was a delight and his goal for 2-0 on 33 minutes was excellent.
He might not be playing in the position he would prefer, but it is abundantly clear he has the talent to play almost any position in an attack and still be the best man on the pitch. Look at the diversity of his strengths – he now has eight goals and nine assists for the season. In the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign, he did not contribute to so many.
But as good as he was, he faded and so did Chelsea. That is the problem – consistency. Woeful against Spurs, excellent against Manchester City; good and bad in the space of one game against Wolves. It is too changeable and that is an uncomfortable place for a big club to be in.
In this instance, it meant allowing Brighton back into the game, despite the home side offering no indication of a pulse, let alone a revival, in the first half. They got their way back in through Solly March midway through the period and from there were the better team. They also had a good claim to be aggrieved when Marcos Alonso escaped with a yellow card when he might have had a red for hauling down March.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Brighton (4-4-1-1): Ryan 6; Montoya 5.5, Balogun 5, Dunk 6.5, Bernardo 7; Knockaert 7 (Locadia 84), Stephens 5.5, Propper 7, March 7.5; Gross 6.5 (Bissouma 81); Murray 5.5 (Andone 60, 6).
Subs not used: Saltor, Bong, Kayal, Steele.
Booked: Dunk, Andone
Goal: March 66
Manager: Chris Hughton 6.5
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga 6; Azpilicueta 6.5, Rudiger 7, Luiz 6.5, Alonso 6; Kante 7, Jorginho 7, Kovacic 7 (Barkley 75); Pedro 7.5 (Loftus-Cheek 66, 7), Hazard 8 (Giroud 84), Willian 7.
Subs not used: Fabregas, Caballero, Christensen, Emerson.
Booked: Arrizabalaga, Alonso
Goals: Pedro 17, Hazard 33
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7
Referee: Stuart Attwell 6.5
So while Chelsea deserved the win on balance, it is no exaggeration to say they made life far more difficult than it needed to be. On the back of the month they have had, though, with off-field issues caused by their fans against Manchester City and MOL Vidi in midweek, they will surely settle for what they got.
Sarri made 10 changes to the side that went through the motions in Budapest, ditching all except Willian and picking an identical XI to the one which beat Manchester City last weekend. Sound enough logic there.