Chelsea 1-0 Brighton: Jackson earns Blues much-needed cup victory
Chelsea earned respite from their difficult start to the season under Mauricio Pochettino as Nicolas Jackson’s second-half goal gave them a 1-0 win against Brighton in the third round of the Carabao Cup.
Roberto De Zerbi’s high-flying visitors dominated possession for much of the game but home fans witnessed their side put on an effective counter-attacking display at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea had gone three games without scoring, but that run ended when Jackson struck early in the second half after being set up by Cole Palmer, planting a composed finish into the corner to ease his personal struggles in front of goal.
Pochettino made five changes from the side beaten by Aston Villa on Sunday, with Palmer brought in for his first start.
The former Manchester City forward began in an advanced three alongside Mykhailo Mudryk and Ian Maatsen, but was at his most effective when dropping to receive the ball deep, seeking out the critical final-third passes that have eluded Chelsea and meant they have scored just five league goals in six games.
Jackson had an early sight of goal, winning the ball on the edge of Brighton’s box and hitting a left-footed drive that deflected over.
Robert Sanchez was one of three former Brighton players in the Chelsea line-up and twice in the first period the goalkeeper almost gifted his former side the lead, first passing the ball straight to the feet of Joao Pedro who chipped it inches over the bar, then putting Moises Caicedo under pressure in a central position. He was dispossessed by Carlo Baleba, who rolled the ball to Ansu Fati to fire wide from the best opening of the half.
Brighton had enjoyed 66 per cent possession by the half-hour mark, leaving Chelsea to look for openings on the break.
The lively Mudryk ran in behind from Caicedo’s defence-splitting pass, only for Tariq Lamptey to slide in with an expertly timed intervention.
Minutes later, Mudryk turned provider, latching on to Levi Colwill’s forceful tackle that sent the ball spinning upfield and crossing low to the near post for Palmer to side-foot wide under pressure from Igor Julio.
Chelsea had endured their worst start to a season in 45 years but relief looked finally to have arrived five minutes after half-time.
Maatsen received the ball centrally and laid it into the feet of Palmer, who had been a lurking first-half threat playing between the lines. He tucked it in cleverly to Jackson, who wrong-footed Bart Verbruggen to guide home his second goal for the club.
It was just the third time this season that Pochettino had seen his team take the lead, and they should have gone further in front when Mudryk’s energetic midfield pressing won the ball and set Jackson away, but this time the goalkeeper got the best of their duel after spreading himself well.
Home fans thought Jackson had scored the second goal his performance deserved when he slotted home from Palmer’s pass, but the offside flag cut short celebrations.
Brighton had late chances to level, first when Pervis Estupinan collected a raking ball and ran it to the byline, but no one had gambled as his cross fizzed across goal.
Pedro then thumped a volley over the bar from Axel Disasi’s weak headed clearance but Chelsea held on to finally hand Pochettino room to breathe.