LONDON -- Frank Lampard's disastrous opening week to his second stint at Chelsea was completed as they sunk to their third successive defeat, with a 2-1 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion on his Stamford Bridge return.
Conor Gallagher put the hosts ahead on 13 minutes in fortuitous fashion as his deflected strike was sent looping over goalkeeper Robert Sanchez. But Brighton pushed hard for a leveller and Danny Welbeck pounced on poor defending to draw level shortly before half-time.
- Report: Chelsea vs. Brighton | Premier League table
Roberto de Zerbi's side continued to push and their pressure eventually told when Julio Enciso scored a screamer on 69 minutes as Brighton bolstered their claims for European football, and claimed their second victory over Chelsea this season.
Christian Pulisic made only his eighth Premier League start of the season, but failed to show anything to suggest he should stay in the team.
1. Lampard not the man to change Chelsea's fortunes
Lampard has legendary status at Chelsea as a player, but he has suffered a joyless start to his caretaker spell until the end of the season, with three defeats in three games. The former Everton manager rung the changes with six alterations to the lineup that suffered a 2-0 defeat to Champions League holders Real Madrid on Wednesday, but got little response.
Lampard opted for pace with Mykhailo Mudryk and United States international Pulisic on the either flank, with Gallagher assuming an unfamiliar role much further up the field alongside Raheem Sterling in a desperate attempt to end their four-match goalless run. Momentarily, it seemed the changes may have been well-judged. Gallagher ended his side's goal drought just 13 minutes in, but as the game progressed Chelsea simply failed to create anything noteworthy.
Chelsea have scored just 30 league goals this season and bare the worst attacking record in the league's top 11. Lampard, Chelsea's record goal scorer, has shown little sign of improving their fortunes in front of goal as any attacks were largely stifled at source. Gallagher's advanced role summed up their desperation for a goal-scoring option. Mudryk showed initial promise but fizzled out and Pulisic failed to muster anything of note on his flank.
Lampard has a lot of options at his disposal, and if he is to attract interest for another managerial gig at the elite level, he must find a way to make this Chelsea side tick before the end of the season. That doesn't appear likely to happen.
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2. Brighton and Chelsea are passing ships
When Graham Potter left Brighton in October to join Chelsea, it seemed an obvious step up, with the club's reputation and their huge influx of signings making a European spot seem a formality. But the outlook of both clubs has changed drastically since. Both Thomas Tuchel and Potter have already failed this season, and Chelsea's stagnant performance under Lampard was indicative of what they have become.
Brighton have achieved a feat that Chelsea could now only dream of this season and, well-placed for a spot in European football, the Seagulls outplayed Lampard's side at Stamford Bridge. Brighton were all over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, everything the Blues would want to be, and deserved a more comfortable lead. That would have been unthinkable for Chelsea at the start of the season.
Brighton's double over Chelsea has shown the different trajectories. The Seagulls have a great chance of securing European football for next season, either via the league or the FA Cup, and they looked good value in Saturday's win. Chelsea are relying on unlikely Champions League glory to restore any pride this campaign.
Anyone picking out the club with supposed-Champions League ambitions after watching this would not have gone for Chelsea.
3. Brighton excellent: mentally and on the pitch
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said at a news conference on Friday that Brighton are "the best team in the world in buildup from the back."
Saturday's showing at Stamford Bridge backed his claims. And as well as passing triangles and effective ball progression, the side's mentality stood out. The Seagulls could have wallowed in the pity of last weekend's defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in which they were deprived of three match-defining officiating decisions, bolstering their position as the worst-effected side by VAR in the Premier League this season.
However, De Zerbi's side showed a strong mentality not only in their response to defeat, but also to going behind at Stamford Bridge in the most unfortunate of circumstances. Chelsea could count themselves lucky to be level at half-time with Kepa Arrizabalaga making two outstanding saves as well as Evan Ferguson crashing a shot off the crossbar. Arrizabalaga eventually crumbled under Brighton's siege with Welbeck heading home just three minutes after being introduced as an enforced substitute to level the game.
Brighton have been an entertaining outfit under De Zerbi. Their surges forward are blistering, and Enciso's winning goal showed the confidence flowing through his side.
There is a feel-good factor surrounding Brighton's excellent season, and it is clear to see that with their style on the pitch. They looked like they were having fun against Chelsea, and they certainly don't wallow when times get tough.
Best and worst performers
Moises Caicedo: Constant energy in midfield and was key to Brighton's effective turnovers in possession. Has been a virtual ever-present for Brighton this season and the fact he has committed long-term shows the positive strides the club continues to take.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: Made two crucial saves in the first half to keep Brighton at bay. Hard to fault him for the goal.
Alexis Mac Allister: The World Cup winner was again a bright spark for Brighton in an excellent season. Combined well with Kaoru Mitoma and Solly March.
Wesley Fofana: Lost Welbeck for the goal and struggled in a backline which looked unable to cope with Brighton's energy.
Raheem Sterling: Summed up Chelsea's struggles in front of goal with little contribution. Was substituted for Joao Felix in Lampard's desperate roll of the dice.
Christian Pulisic: The game passed Pulisic by as Chelsea failed to build anything down his side until substituted. Look low on confidence in a season which has seen him score just one league goal.
Highlights and notable moments
Gallagher gets lucky to give Chelsea an early lead against Brighton.
After four-straight matches without a goal, Conor Gallagher scores Chelsea's first goal in almost a month!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 15, 2023
📺: @peacock | #CHEBHA pic.twitter.com/6803jG5ay2
Welbeck was allowed the freedom to head home an equaliser for the Seagulls.
Impact sub Danny Welbeck!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 15, 2023
He only needed 2:30 on the pitch to score. 👀
📺: @peacock | #CHEBHA pic.twitter.com/BQAseGzDM9
If you're going to win a game with a stunning goal, how about this from Enciso? Definitely deserves all three points!
JULIO ENCISO WITH THE ROCKET! 🚀— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 15, 2023
📺: @peacock | #CHEBHA pic.twitter.com/kdyd1VJJmR
After the match: What the players/managers said
"It was the most deserved one [defeat]. I think at the moment, more than defeats its performance we have to talk about because wins only come with performance. In terms of performance that was the most disappointing one, we were well beaten. It's a really good Brighton team so must give them a lot of credit. They're a fantastic team and can play like that against any team in the league.
"We were short, a yard short, a tackle short. When that's not right, you're not going to win games. You have to have the capacity to do that as well, at the minute we're falling short of that and we have to turn it around quickly." -- Chelsea manager Frank Lampard
"We are used to analysing the game, but I think we played better today than the last game at the Amex [4-1 against Chelsea]. We could play better in the last 10 minutes.
"We would like to achieve two bigger target for, FA Cup and Europe position. In a lot of things we are improving. We have improved. But I think two big things are the quality of play, because now the idea it better, clearer and the other mentality because to play in this way, in Stamford bridge we have to have a clear idea but a big personality." -- Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi
Prior to this season Brighton's only win vs. Chelsea was in an FA Cup match in 1933 -- this season they have beaten them home and away.
Brighton had 12 shots in the first half, the joint-most on record by an away team at Stamford Bridge (since 2003-04.)
Chelsea: The Blues have the small matter of Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg on Tuesday, when they must try to overcome a 2-0 first-leg defeat. They don't have a game next weekend as Manchester United are playing in the FA Cup semifinals. Their next Premier League game is at home to Brentford on Wednesday, April 26.
Brighton: The Seagulls take on Manchester United in the semifinals of the FA Cup at Wembley on Sunday, April 23 before travelling to Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Wednesday, April 26,