Chelsea toil with time running out
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Chelsea 1: European champions slip to third pre-season defeat in a row as Brighton show scant respect
It is only natural that Chelsea are having trouble regaining their focus after satisfying their long-held ambition to win the Champions League. But with two weeks to go before the beginning of the Barclays Premier League season, and the FA Community Shield against Manchester City at Villa Park next Sunday, Roberto Di Matteo's team do not have much time in which to recover their intensity before the serious business starts.
Reading too much into pre-season friendlies may be unwise, but this one developed an edge late on as Chelsea's frustrations grew, players squaring up to each other after a foul by Ashley Cole on Ashley Barnes, one of Brighton's scorers.
Chelsea have won only once and are yet to keep a clean sheet in five pre-season games, and seldom looked like winning yesterday. "I was expecting a bit more in terms of urgency," Di Matteo said. "We were never aggressive enough, there wasn't enough movement. A lot of the goals conceded are individual errors but they will be cut out once we get into the league."
Di Matteo has promised more attacking flair this season, but of the summer signings expected to provide some of the extra spark, Marko Marin was injured and Oscar was on Olympics duty with Brazil. That left Eden Hazard to attempt to add a new dimension, and he flickered only briefly on the edges of the action. "He's a young guy and we have to give him time to adapt to English football," Di Matteo said.
Wayne Bridge, who is on loan to Brighton from Manchester City, failed to recover from a groin injury, so we will never know whether he would again have refused to shake the hand of John Terry as he did before a match in February 2010 over Terry's alleged affair with Bridge's former partner Vanessa Perroncel – a relationship that was publicised again during the recent court case in which Terry was cleared of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. The court of public opinion is another matter, of course, and Terry was jeered at every touch, which will not concern him as much as his team's failure to keep the ball out of its net.
Brighton formed a guard of honour to applaud Chelsea on to the pitch in recognition of their Champions League victory, but showed them scant respect, even after Chelsea took the lead after 35 minutes when Fernando Torres cleverly dummied – or completely missed, you can never be sure which – a diagonal pass from Ramires on the right, allowing Frank Lampard to shoot home.
The home side replied within three minutes. Barnes broke down the left and was put under no pressure as he crossed low for Vicente, whose first-time shot rolled between Terry's feet and past Petr Cech.
Two minutes before half-time, Brighton were ahead. Will Buckley robbed Raul Meireles on the right and skipped past Ashley Cole. Cech blocked, but the ball ran to Barnes, who finished decisively. With four minutes left, David Luiz appealed in vain for a foul as Andrew Crofts went through to score on his return to Brighton after two seasons with Norwich City.
Having beaten the European champions, Brighton may now consider themselves the best team on the continent. But this was not the Chelsea of that night in Munich.
Brighton (4-2-1-3): Kuszczak; Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Calderon; Bridcutt, Dicker (Harley, 58); Crofts; Buckley (Noone, 65), Vicente, Barnes (Adgestein, 90).
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech (Turnbull, 65); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (David Luiz, 61), Cole; Essien; Ramires, Lampard, Meireles (Mikel, 46), Hazard; Torres (Lukaku, 78).
Referee D Phillips.
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