Brighton 1-2 Chelsea: Palmer and Nkunku boost Blues’ European hopes

Brighton 1-2 Chelsea: Palmer and Nkunku boost Blues' European hopes

Chelsea maintained their European charge with a fourth successive win on Wednesday, overcoming Brighton by a 2-1 scoreline at the Amex Stadium. 

Cole Palmer’s excellent header – his 22nd Premier League goal of a fine debut campaign – put the Blues ahead after they had been denied an early penalty by a VAR review.

Both sides enjoyed plenty of chances with Pascal Gross going particularly close for Brighton, but Christopher Nkunku pounced to give Chelsea breathing room in the second half. 

Chelsea captain Reece James was sent off for a petulant kick on Joao Pedro late on and Danny Welbeck halved the arrears in stoppage time, but the visitors held on to ensure a top-seven finish remains in their hands going into the final day. 

Chelsea thought they had an early chance to score from the spot as Facundo Buonanotte’s challenge on Marc Cucurella was penalised, but the penalty award was overturned after a VAR review.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side continued to push for the opener as Malo Gusto’s deflected effort was tipped over by Bart Verbruggen, and they eventually broke through in the 34th minute.

Cucurella burst down the left-hand side before floating a cross into the box, and Palmer arrived to send a looping header over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

Nicolas Jackson had an excellent chance to double Chelsea’s lead deep into first-half stoppage time, but he failed to convert Palmer’s cross on the volley.

Substitute Nkunku then went close shortly after the break, but his driven effort from the edge of the box went narrowly wide.

The Seagulls should have equalised in the 57th minute as Tariq Lamptey’s dipping cross found Gross totally unmarked, but he somehow put his shot wide from inside the six-yard box.

Pochettino’s men punished that miss seven minutes later, with Gusto cutting back for Nkunku to pick out the bottom corner with his first-time finish.

James was sent off after a VAR review as stoppage time loomed, having appeared to kick out at Pedro. The Seagulls pilled on the pressure from there as Adingra struck the post on the volley before Welbeck poked home a Pedro delivery, but Chelsea ultimately held firm.

Brighton’s conceding first curse

Brighton have now failed to win in their last 11 matches when conceding the opening goal in the Premier League, in a run which dates back to a victory over Brentford on December 6.

The Seagulls had opportunities to equalise after Palmer’s first-half header, but Nkunku’s goal gave them a mountain to climb, one they were unable to scale even with a one-man advantage. 

A top-half finish is now the limit of Brighton’s ambitions. They stay 10th, and a win over Manchester United on the final day will ensure they avoid dropping into the bottom half.

Chelsea’s impressive 2024 continues

Pochettino has started to turn things around since the start of 2024, with Chelsea securing 32 points in the Premier League since the start of January.  

The contributions of Palmer have certainly helped the Argentine, with the young attacker scoring the opening goal in nine league games this season. 

Chelsea supporters wouldn’t have been expecting a late push for the European places, but with the Blues sitting sixth going to the final day, qualification is in their hands. 

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