Match Review – Chelsea 2-0 Brighton

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Since the November international break, Brighton and Hove Albion have conceded 14 goals in nine matches. And nine of those have come from crosses into the box.

Chelsea added two on Boxing Day through Alvaro Morata and Marcus Alonso. Serge Aurier scored direct from a cross for Spurs to go with Son Heung-min’s header from Christian Erikssen’s free kick. Both of Steve Mounie’s goals for Huddersfield were from balls into the box, Emre Can scored a free header from a corner for Liverpool, Lewis Dunk’s own goal at Old Trafford came after we didn’t clear a corner effectively and Kurt Zouma had a free header for Stoke in their visit to the Amex.

For all the praise that has been lavished on Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy so far this season, the worrying truth is that at present they look about as comfortable dealing with crosses into the box as a parent would be at hiring Jimmy Saville as an entertainer at a children’s birthday party.

There were instances earlier in the season when we’ve struggled with balls coming in – Harry Maguire had a free header for Leicester, singer/songwriter James Morrison’s consolation for West Brom came from Oliver Burke heading down a cross and Wayne Rooney equalised from the penalty spot for Everton after Bruno decided the best way to try and defend a ball in was by whacking Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the head with an elbow. Those three take the total to 12 goals out of 25 this season.

If we could defend crosses, the fact we don’t score many goals wouldn’t be so much of an issue. At Stamford Bridge we were brilliant defensively in the first half as not even Eden Hazard gliding across the pitch with the ball seemingly glued to his feet could find a way through.

Chelsea’s only chances of the first half came from close range and they were wasted by Victor Moses and Tiemoue Bakayoko. The Blues were largely frustrated with the full backs – whisper it quietly, given Ezequiel Schelotto is a lot of people’s new hate figure – doing particularly well given the quality Chelsea had out wide from their wing backs with Alonso and Moses pushed high up the pitch.

All that good work was undone less than a minute into the second half when Cesar Azpilicueta crossed and Morata found his way into a gap between Dunk and Duffy that was wider than an Amsterdam window woman’s leg spread. The former Real Madrid man made no mistake with his header.

Maty Ryan made two good saves to deny Alonso from a free kick and then a header from the resulting corner. It was third time lucky for Alonso though as from the second corner he beat Ryan to make it 2-0.

And that was predictably game over. Any game against the top six this season has been predictable; so predictable in fact that we landed three bets out of three on our OLBG tipping page for the Chelsea game.

We don’t have enough quality to score in these sorts of games which means you can bet your house on it being Brighton nil and we’re not so bad we are going to get turned over, especially with Chris Hughton’s priority of defence.

That often means we make it to the break level. As soon as the opposition score its game over, they’ll normally add a second and then ease up knowing the game is won.

Four out of six times we’ve lost 2-0 to the big boys, no disgrace in itself but when you see the likes of Huddersfield and Burnley beating Manchester United, it does make you wonder why we can’t at least give it a go against sides of United’s ilk.

Much more important though is Saturday’s game against Newcastle United. Hughton acknowledged that with his team selection, resting Bruno, Anthony Knockaert, Pascal Gross and Glenn Murray, a sensible decision.

Which begs the question with the game all but over after the 70th minute, why did he then bring the latter three on and risk them picking up injury or suspension? Especially as that seems like the perfect time to get minutes under the belts of Connor Goldson and Sam Baldock.

Hughton has received some criticism for making changes too late this season and just making like for like swaps but you could always find some logic behind those decisions.

This was just genuinely baffling though as we were never going to get back into the game, those four had clearly been rested to protect them so why then risk them in a game that was over when you have players sitting on the bench needing game time?

If we win on Saturday all that will be forgotten of course. A point a game is the normal average that secures you safety and we are on 21 from 20. Victory at St James’ Park keeps us ahead of the target and would move us six clear of the Toon Army.

Stop conceding from crosses, and that will be more than achievable.

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