Spaniards Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso head Chelsea past Brighton
Chelsea got back to winning ways on Boxing Day with a 2-0 win over Brighton at Stamford Bridge.
Despite plenty of possession in the first half the Blues struggled to break down a well-organised defence that showed little ambition to get forward. A sharp turn from Morata looked to have opened them up early on but it came to nothing before two decent chances were created. Victor Moses ran on to an excellent through ball from Cesc Fabregas but couldn't convert before a sharp chance arrived at the feet of Tiemoue Bakayoko who was unable to sort his feet out in time.
Chelsea came out for the second half with renewed vigour and broke the deadlock almost instantly. For the sixth time this season a Cesar Azpilicueta cross was nodded home by Morata and from that moment the result was never in doubt. Marcos Alonso headed home a Fabregas corner for the second and it was only over-elaboration that prevented Chelsea from adding to the scoreline.
The increase in intensity after half-time was the key to victory. With Brighton offering little threat, Chelsea showed greater dynamism after the break which ultimately undid their opponents.
Although there was plenty of effort in the first half, there was little in the way of guile or ruthlessness. Although that changed after half-time, it was concerning that Chelsea toiled against a humble side.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Antonio Conte's slight tweak to play Cesc Fabregas a little deeper in the second half was the pivotal tactical aspect of the game. It allowed Chelsea's chief creator to pull the strings and dictate the pattern of play.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 -- Apart from one saved shot from an offside position he had virtually nothing to do.
DF Gary Cahill, 7 -- Played centrally and did not look out of place. Lacked the range of passing offered by Andreas Christensen or David Luiz but made several intelligent interventions.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Played a few fabulous raking passes to switch the point of attack. Defensively untroubled.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- A typically dependable display as he snuffed out any danger with ease. Played a delicious cross for Morata to open the scoring.
MF Marcos Alonso, 8 -- Had little to do defensively but contributed hugely in attack. Drew a save from a free kick as well as the resulting corner before finding the back of the net at the third attempt.
MF Victor Moses, 7 -- Might have scored twice in the first half when finding himself free at the back post. Otherwise often underused.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- Although he does it every week, his ability to cover large distances and win back the ball in the blink of an eye never fails to astound. Embarked on a sensational run with the ball that Eden Hazard should really have turned into a third goal.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 7 -- Made some impressive tackles high up for the pitch to keep the pressure on Brighton's defence. Might have scored but was unable to turn either of his opportunities goalward.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 8 -- After a relatively quiet first half, the Spanish maestro came to the fore. Played the quarterback role exceptionally well and got an assist for the second goal.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 -- A central figure despite not directly contributing to either goal. Created several opportunities that were spurned by teammates.
FW Alvaro Morata, 7 -- Took his goal with his trademark class though he generally drifted in and out of the game. Still provided a focal point to the attack that was lacking in the goalless draw with Everton.
FW Willian, NR -- Was heavily involved after coming on without doing anything memorable.
FW Michy Batshuayi, NR -- Was desperate to make an impression and worked hard in his short time on the pitch.
MF, Danny Drinkwater, NR -- Kept it simple and uncomplicated.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.