Chelsea 1-1 Brighton: Blues leapfrog Liverpool but last-gasp Danny Welbeck equaliser deals blow to title hopes

    The former Arsenal and Manchester United striker headed home in second-half stoppage time – Brighton’s first-ever goal at Stamford Bridge – to cancel out Romelu Lukaku’s first-half effort and seal a deserved share of the spoils after an entertaining festive encounter.

    Chelsea showed four changes from their much-needed Boxing Day victory at Aston Villa as Lukaku and Mateo Kovacic came in for their first league starts since October and captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen replaced Trevoh Chalobah and the injured Thiago Silva in defence, with N’Golo Kante and Kai Havertz deemed fit enough for the bench.

    Reece James was picked to play at left wing-back with Marcos Alonso among the substitutes as Thomas Tuchel searches for solutions following the news that Ben Chilwell will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

    And Chelsea made a fast start to proceedings, almost going ahead after Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez hopelessly flapped at a corner and Azpilicueta’s poked finish after a Mason Mount touch hit the base of the post, with a glancing header from Antonio Rudiger then held by Sanchez.

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    The lightning-quick Tariq Lamptey was a real threat down Brighton’s right flank on his first return to the club he left in January 2020, having a penalty appeal turned down after a tussle with James and then steering a shot wide after cutting inside onto his left foot.

    The Blues did go in front shortly before the 30-minute mark, with Lukaku easily shrugging off the attentions of Neal Maupay before rising above Jakub Moder to head home James’ corner for his second goal in as many games.

    It was Chelsea’s eighth headed goal of the season and their seventh from a corner – both leading marks in the top-flight – and stood after a VAR check, despite an irate Maupay feeling he was fouled by his striking counterpart.

    Chelsea’s relentless injury woes then continued as James went down in considerable pain with a hamstring problem and was replaced by Alonso, with Christensen also hobbling with a back issue until half-time, when he had to make way for Chalobah.

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