Brighton reach their peak by putting Graham Potter and Chelsea to the sword
A sparkling performance and some welcome gifts from the Chelsea defense gave Brighton a cathartic win over their former manager.
Well what a day it turned out to be for Brighton & Hove Albion. They ticked several important boxes. It was a big win against a considerably larger resourced side and a first ever league win against Chelsea. It was a return to form after five games without a win and a first win for new manager Roberto De Zerbi. Oh yeah, and their followers got to chant “You’re getting fired tomorrow morning” and “Potter, Potter, what’s the score?” » at the director who lifted the sticks and left the club the first time, a golden carrot hung in front of him, then returned to take his entire staff behind the scenes as well.
And what effect has all this had on Brighton? Well, De Zerbi started well, drawing 3-3 at Anfield against Liverpool in his first game, but since then performances have been more uneven. Spurs were professional but not much more in beating them 1-0 at the Amex. Brentford beat them comfortably. The game against Nottingham Forest felt like a throwback to all the previous times when it looked like they couldn’t buy a goal. Losing to Manchester City was to be expected, but he ended a five-game winless streak since taking charge.
Of course, the loss of the manager is one thing. It happens to clubs with tiresome regularity, always reminding of the vast divide between those for whom it’s a livelihood and those for whom it’s fandom. But it seems preposterous to believe that the sudden – and frankly unexpected – withdrawal of an entire backroom staff wouldn’t cause an enormous amount of disruption, no matter how quickly smoothed it might seem from the outside.
It’s not even the first time this has happened. Dan Ashworth went for the Saudi money earlier this year. And it has been suggested that Potter still is unhappy with what he has already taken from his former club. There are now strong rumors that Brighton scouting chief Paul Winstanley will also travel to Stamford Bridge. Stamford Bridge needs renovation; it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few of the Amex booths show up there as well.
But such behavior from a head coach, who kept talking to them about the importance of teamwork, “building a family” or whatever while he was there- down, can also have a galvanizing effect on those left behind. Brighton’s players entered this game with a point to prove like no other. Fans, who are regularly encouraged by clubs to embrace the emotional side of the game only for everyone involved to act as if it’s ‘just a job’, would have the opportunity to let him know exactly what they think of how he acted.
It took the team less than five minutes to get going. Thiago Silva had already headed the ball twice for Chelsea when Leandro Trossard scored to put Brighton ahead. Things didn’t improve for Chelsea for the remainder of the half. They were pressing high but not holding onto the ball, resulting in huge gaps behind their defenders which Brighton, who appeared to have started with four up front, so relentlessly were attacking, could easily exploit.
Chelsea also seemed happy to give Brighton a helping hand throughout the first half. After 14 minutes, Ruben Loftus-Cheek turned the ball into his own goal from a corner. Christian Pulisic swept the ball away with goalkeeper Robert Sanchez on his stomach. And then, with three minutes of half time remaining, Pervis Estupinan again came in on the left and took the ball away for Trevoh Chalobah to divert the ball. Kepa Arrizabalaga. 3-0 at halftime, including two own goals. Kepa did not return in the second half, replaced by Edouard Mendy.
But nerves started to seep in with the start of the second half. Just minutes later, Kai Havertz headed in a Conor Gallagher cross from close range, and the mood around the game began to change. Brighton started to drop slightly and a slightly revamped Chelsea side started to move into those spaces and into attacking positions.
The pressure started to mount, in that way so familiar when A Big Club trails behind. But Brighton held on and they grew in the second half. Chelsea were largely limited to half chances, although they created a number of them, and when Havertz skimmed the ball over the crossbar from 12 yards with four minutes remaining, the game was truly over.
Could there have been a more satisfying result so far for Brighton supporters? Everything was set for another layer of disappointment, with their side, who certainly showed some degree of their recent fraying in underwhelming performances against Brentford and Nottingham Forest, having to come up against the powerhouse of Chelsea, coached by the man who never a not just left the club a few months ago, but who also took all the backroom staff with him.
But when the game started, they started off with the force of a hurricane, creating chance after chance throughout the first half, even though they relied on Chelsea’s defensive munificence for two of their goals. And they showed real character in the second half.
Conceding early on might have allowed those little insecurities to start seeping in, but instead they settled in, calmed things down and, even though they were on the defensive for much of the second half-time, they rarely seemed to really give up their lead once they got it.
If Brighton supporters wondered “what’s the point?” after their club was looted, well, the answer to that question is “today”. Today is the point. Big money will win in the long run, because big money always wins in the long run. Chelsea are just two league places and three points above them in the Premier League, and while that seemed slightly ridiculous based on their game against each other, most would still expect that Chelsea qualify for next year’s Champions League and Brighton fall. short.
But sometimes it’s better not to dwell on the structural inequalities of football. At least today belonged to Brighton, because proving revenge can be a dish best served piping hot.
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