Chelsea close in on Europe as win at Brighton takes them sixth

Chelsea maintained their European charge with a fourth successive win on Wednesday, beating Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 at the Amex Stadium.

Cole Palmer’s excellent header – his 22nd Premier League goal of a fine debut campaign – put the Blues ahead, and Christopher Nkunku gave Chelsea breathing room in the second half.

Chelsea captain Reece James was sent off for kicking out at Joao Pedro late on, and Danny Welbeck halved the arrears in stoppage time, but the visitors held on and climbed to sixth above Newcastle United, who lost 3-2 at Manchester United.

A draw or win against AFC Bournemouth on Sunday would ensure the Blues keep that spot and qualify for Europe. Fifth place remains a possibility but would require Tottenham Hotspur to lose at bottom club Sheffield United.

How the match unfolded

Chelsea thought they had earned 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.

Cole Palmer, Chelsea

Nicolas Jackson had an excellent chance to double Chelsea’s lead in 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.

Brighton should have equalised in the 57th minute as Tariq Lamptey’s dipping cross found Pascal 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 a first-time finish.

James was sent off after a VAR review as stoppage time loomed, having kicked out at Pedro. It was the right-back’s second red card of the season, resulting in a four-match suspension which means he will miss the first three Premier League matches of the 2024/25 campaign.

Reece James, Chelsea

Brighton pilled on the pressure from there and Simon Adingra struck a post on the volley before Welbeck poked home from a Pedro delivery, but Chelsea ultimately held firm.

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 Argentinian, 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.

See: Palmer – It’s BIG to have Europe in our own hands

As for Brighton, they have 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 6 December.

A top-half finish is now the limit of the Seagulls’ ambitions. They are 10th, four points behind ninth-placed West Ham United.

Club reports

Brighton report | Chelsea report

Final Premier League fixtures
Key facts

Chelsea have won four successive Premier League games for the first time since October 2022, while it’s as many wins as in their previous 12 matches in the competition (D5 L3).

Only the Premier League’s bottom four sides – Sheffield United (7), Luton Town (11), Nottingham Forest (13) and Burnley (13) – have collected fewer points in 2024 than Brighton (18).

Chelsea’s Premier League games this season have seen 137 goals in total (75 scored, 62 conceded), their most in a single campaign in the competition.

Palmer has now scored 22 goals for Chelsea in the Premier League this season, only Didier Drogba (29 in 2009/10) and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (23 in 2000/01 and 2001/02) have more for the Blues in a single campaign.

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