Chelsea managed three attempts on goal in the first 45 minutes
Chelsea shared a goalless draw with Brighton to advance to the Champions League spots on a night when the future of European football reached a dramatic climax.
The resignation of the Blues was followed by that of Manchester City, as the controversial new competition threatened to be unraveled just 48 hours after the proposals were revealed by the 12 clubs involved.
With the current Champions League approval, Chelsea must finish in the top four in the English top division or win the competition in order to qualify for a place in the European elite next season.
The Blues created little, but one point was enough to see Thomas Tuchel’s side take the last of those automatic seats, putting themselves above London rivals West Ham they face on Saturday.
Indeed, it was Brighton who had the best chance late when first substitute Adam Lallana shot wide before Danny Welbeck hit the post from distance.
Defender Ben White was then sent to the visitors for a second booking in added time when Chelsea tried to tear themselves away.
The draw brings Graham Potter’s side seven points over the Premier League relegation zone with six games.
Blues distracted from off-field drama?
Chelsea legend Petr Cech asked fans to disperse off the ground
The drama began long before kick-off in West London when around 1,000 Chelsea fans gathered outside the stadium to protest plans for a new European Super League, which was widely condemned.
Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech, now the club’s technical and performance advisor, asked spectators to disperse so the team’s coaches could step on the ground, delaying the game by 15 minutes.
It didn’t take long for news to spread that Chelsea were in fact preparing papers to withdraw from the proposed competition and that those who were still in the area were met with applause.
It is reported that the decision was made by owner Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea board after seeing a negative global reaction to the Super League and no direct reaction to the protests.
Chelsea boss Tuchel previously said it was an “annoying and frustrating” distraction for his side as they tried to build on the momentum they gained from reaching the Champions League semi-finals and FA Cup finals last year Week won.
And during the warm-up, you couldn’t escape it when Brighton players donned T-shirts that read “Football is for the fans” and “Champions League: Earn it”.
Brighton players wore anti-European Super League T-shirts during warm-up
The off-field drama didn’t carry over to the field as the Premier League’s top two defensive records have struggled to punch holes in another recently.
A long-range shot from Kurt Zouma, comfortably saved by Robert Sanchez, was the best Chelsea could muster before the break, while Yves Bissouma’s deflected attempt, snaking over the bar, was as close as Brighton came.
Tuchel’s concerns seemed to materialize when Zouma made one of only three attempts for the Blues in the first half, the least in the first 45 minutes of a Premier League game since making just one against Liverpool in September.
After the break it was a similar pattern: a disciplined Brighton held his form well, suppressing any scrutiny attacking movements from the hosts.
Tuchel presented Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner with a little more than 20 minutes’ lead in order to stretch the seagulls. Olivier Giroud soon followed suit.
But it was the visitors who had the best chance when Lallana first shot wide after Chelsea gave the ball away on the edge of their own box and Welbeck then made an excellent attempt against the post.
Tuchel’s changes had some impact when Giroud turned a Hudson-Odoi cross wide and the winger was then overthrown by White when he received a second yellow card in the 92nd minute.
It was a 15th goal in Tuchel’s 20th game against the Blues, who have only lost one of their 13 Premier League games since the German arrived
Brighton have now only won two of their last 10 league games, but a win at Sheffield United on Saturday would almost secure their top status for another year.
The stats – Tuchel’s Chelsea are proving to be frugal
- Brighton have played 11 clean sheets in the Premier League this season, eight of them since the turn of the year – the best return in a high-profile season since 1981/82 (14).
- Since winning promotion in 2017, Brighton have drawn more 0-0 Premier League games than any other team (17), including the last two.
- They also received 12 red cards with only Arsenal (14) and Leicester (13) suffering more during this period.
- The Seagulls have drawn six goalless draws this season, more than in any of their previous Premier League campaigns.
- Of the managers who oversee more than 10 Premier League games for Chelsea, only Glenn Hoddle (1.2) and Ian Porterfield (1.1) have lower goals per game in competition than Thomas Tuchel (1.3-17 goals) in 13 games).
- Tuchel’s Chelsea team conceded just 0.62 goals per game in the Premier League (eight of 13), the second-best ratio of all Blues bosses, after Luiz Felipe Scolari (0.6-15 in 25 games) more than 10 games supervised.
- Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has scored five straight clean sheets in all competitions for the Blues, as many as in his last 18 years.
Chelsea will visit West Ham on Saturday (5:30 PM BST) while Brighton will visit Sheffield United later that evening (8:00 PM).
Player of the game
Brighton & Hove Albion
- fifteenZoumaBooked at 35 minutes
- 5JorginhoBooked at 35 minutes
- 3rdAlonsoReplaced byHudson-Odoiat the 67 ‘protocol
- 22ndZiyechReplaced byGiroudat the 77 ‘protocol
- 29HavertzReplaced byWernerat the 67 ‘protocol
- 3rdWhiteBooked at 90 minutes
- 10Mac AllisterReplaced byMaupayat the 74 ‘protocol
- 11TrossardReplaced byLallanaat the 60 ‘protocol
- 18thWelbeckReplaced byModerat the 86 ‘protocol
End of the game, Chelsea 0, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
The second half ends with Chelsea 0, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. The corner was caused by Reece James.
Attempt blocked. Neal Maupay (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Prepared by Jakub Moder.
Attempt saved. Olivier Giroud’s (Chelsea) header from the center of the penalty area is saved in the middle of the goal. Assisted by Reece James with a cross.
Second yellow card to Ben White (Brighton and Hove Albion) for a bad foul.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ben White (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Attempt saved. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right top center of the goal. Prepared by Andreas Christensen.
Handball by Adam Lallana (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Jakub Moder replaces Danny Welbeck.
Missed attempt. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) left footed shot from the center of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Callum Hudson-Odoi with a cross.
Attempt saved. Adam Lallana (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the lower left corner. Prepared by Pascal Groß.
Attempt blocked. Danny Welbeck (Brighton and Hove Albion) left footed shot from the center of the box is blocked.
Danny Welbeck (Brighton and Hove Albion) hits the right post with a right footed shot from outside the box. Prepared by Adam Lallana.
Missed attempt. Adam Lallana (Brighton y Hove Albion) left footed shot from the center of the box misses to the left. Prepared by Neal Maupay.
Substitution, Chelsea. Olivier Giroud replaces Hakim Ziyech.
Offside Chelsea. Antonio Rüdiger tries a pass forward, but Timo Werner is caught offside.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Neal Maupay replaces Alexis Mac Allister.
Ben White (Brighton and Hove Albion) receives a yellow card for a bad foul.