After Cesar Azpilicueta had already hit the post, Romelu Lukaku’s 28th-minute header gave the Blues the lead but they had to wait 45 minutes for another attempt on goal as Graham Potter’s Brighton grew into the game.
There were more injury concerns for manager Thomas Tuchel too as first Reece James and then Andreas Christensen were forced off to join fellow defenders Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva in the treatment room.
Yves Bissouma stung the hands of Edouard Mendy with a dipping volley after the break and Neal Maupay’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Antonio Rudiger, but the home side’s luck did not hold with Danny Welbeck rising above Trevor Chalobah to head home and earn the Seagulls a point they richly deserved.
Chelsea player ratings
Edouard Mendy – 7
Solid with his hands but a little unsteady with the ball at his feet. Made a fine stop from a dipping Bissouma volley and would have deserved his 10th Premier League clean sheet of the season – if Chelsea had hung on.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 7
Nearly opened the scoring in a goalmouth scramble early on and later, as Chelsea struggled to hang onto their lead, provided an exhortative but ultimately cool head at the back when plenty around were losing theirs. Lovely backheel for Mount almost set up Chelsea’s second too.
Andreas Christensen (replaced by Chalobah, 46th minute) – 6.5
Horrid clearance almost put Chelsea in trouble after a miscommunication with Mendy but made a crucial intervention from behind shortly before half-time to snuff out a nascent Brighton attack. Played through first-half injury but was removed at the break.
Antonio Rudiger – 6
Made a very reckless challenge out on the left that could have earned him a red, not a yellow, on another night, and should have scored a free header at the back post. Did make a last-gasp block to deny Maupay with Mendy scrambling though.
Christian Pulisic – 5.5
Made a lively start at right wing-back but with freedom to roam almost anywhere. However, defending against Solly March left plenty to be desired and it was he who failed to close down the cross for Brighton’s late goal.
Mateo Kovacic – 5
Could have cost his side a goal when caught dwelling on the ball midway through the first half and did not provide the kind of incisive passing that the evening demanded.
Jorginho – 5
Chelsea did not have a shot at goal in the entire middle third of the game, which is hardly Jorginho’s fault, but they also conceded 12 shots. He and Kovacic struggled to stop the likes of Bissouma and Lallana passing or running through the lines. Kante’s introduction was a necessity.
Reece James (replaced by Alonso, 28th minute) – 6
Started at left wing-back and was given a hard time by the pace of Tariq Lamptey in the early stages. Was then clattered by Yves Bissouma and was taken off with a hamstring injury. Replaced by Marcos Alonso.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (replaced by Kante, 67th minute) – 5.5
Felt like a performance to sum up CHO’s Chelsea career so far. Lots of nice moments, but not much telling end product in the important ones. Blew a two-on-one when Veltman played on the lack of incision.
Mason Mount – 7.5
Failed to find his man when Chelsea broke early on but did force the first real save from Sanchez at the near post, and was constantly lively in the right and then the left channel.
Romelu Lukaku – 8
Imposed himself physically from the off, despite the efforts of Dan Burn to match up with him.
Marcos Alonso (on for James, 28th minute) – 6
Poor clearance straight to Bissouma offered the Mali international the chance to test Mendy but the goalkeeper spared Alonso’s blushes.
Trevor Chalobah (on for Christensen, 46th minute) – 5
Almost cost his side an equaliser when he tried to intercept a pass to Maupay, missed it and the Frenchman flashed just wide. Was not so lucky when Welbeck outjumped him in stoppage time.
N’golo Kante (on for Hudson-Odoi, 67th minute) – 7
Gave Chelsea a second wind after a poor half hour split by half-time. Played in a more advanced role to cut off Brighton possession higher up the pitch and did so extremely effectively. Tuchel probably wishes he didn’t have to expend 23 minutes of his energy though – this was his fourth appearance in 10 days.
James injury latest
Reece James’ departure from the arena after less than half an hour will have been a worrying sight for Thomas Tuchel, who is already without Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell during the busiest of periods.
James left the field unable to walk unaided and even then was moving extremely gingerly with what Chelsea later confirmed was a hamstring injury.
Should Chelsea’s first goal have been ruled out?
Former referee Mark Clattenburg on Amazon Prime Video
“First of all, what I’m seeing a lot of, especially over the last couple of weeks, is defenders are not watching the ball at corner kicks but watching their men.
“He’s put his arms around, and the momentum of Lukaku’s arm has caught Maupay, but for me, this arm [Lukaku’s] is just natural. He’s trying to shake him off. He’s lost his man, he’s [Maupay] went down. This is a clear goal for me.”