BY PAUL LAGAN
Eden Hazard shone for the Blues as they made hard work of securing all three points on the South Coast this afternoon, beating Brighton 2-1.
The Belgium playmaker ran through the home side’s half before slotting the ball home past goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
That was the Blues second goal and Hazard was instrumental in the first, teeing up Pedro for the simplest of finishes.
Brighton’s best player Solly march reduced the deficit but the Blues were able to fend off a late resurgence from the Seagulls.
Once again head coach Maurizio Sarri opted to play Eden Hazard as the central striker with Willian and Pedro in support from the wide areas.
The first effort on goal fell to the visitors with David Luiz striking from 25 yards. The ball just about reached Mat Ryan in the Brighton goal.
From that point on, Brighton took control, Kepa Arrizabalaga doing well to punch clear a Pascal Grob right wing cross.
But against the run of play, Chelsea snatched the lead on 17 minutes. Eden Hazard, as in so many games for the Blues was the architect.
Picking the ball up on the edge of the Brighton penalty area, he tried a shot. It was blocked but he picked up the rebound and zipped towards the byline, cutting the ball across the six-yard box before in-running Pedro had the simplest of chances of tucking home at the far post. It was the Spain winger’s sixth goal for Chelsea this season, and Hazard’s ninth assist.
Mateo Kovacic gave the ball away, giving it straight to Solly March on 31 minutes. Arrizabalaga did well to dive to his left to snatch the low goal-bound drive.
Two minutes later and it was 2-0 to the Londoners and self-inflicted by the home side.
Leon Balogun gave a suicidal pass to Willian in midfield and the Brazilian found Hazard, who raced clear from the halfway line, outpaced the sluggish Brighton defence and with Ryan racing out , the Beligium cooly slotted home just inside the goalkeeper’s right near post.
Antonio Rudiger had a fine header inch wide of goal on 42 minutes as the Blues looked to kill then game off before half time.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Chelsea had the chance for a third two minutes into then restart but somehow Hazard, failed to connect to a Cesar Azpilicueta byline cross. And the ball went clear to safety.
Marcos Alonso rattled the Brighton post on 63 minutes. His effort from a tight angle, 30 yards out on the left, beat Ryan but ricocheted away from the goal and was cleared.
Three minutes later and the home side got a goal back. A sweeping move across the pitch saw Bernardo head powerfully back across goal and Solly March was on hand to smash the ball home, past Kepa from close range.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was immediately brought on for ineffectual Pedro straight away.
Kovacic was replaced by Ross Barkley with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Sarri replaced Hazard with seven minutes to go for striker Oliver Giroud.
Alonso was lucky only to get a yellow card, after he bundled over March, who looked to be the last player with two minutes left.
The home side piled on the pressure but the Blues stood firm and repelled the late charge.
Chelsea face Bournemouth, at home, on Wednesday night in the Carabao Cup before taking on Leicester City, agains at the Bridge on Saturday in the league.
Teams: Chelsea Arrizabalaga, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Hazard, Pedro, Kovacic, Willian, Azpilicueta, Luiz
Subs: Caballero, Fabregas, barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Giroud, Christensen, Emerson
Brighton: Ryan, Dunk, Stephens, Knockaert, Grob, Balogun, Murray, March, Montoya, Propper, Bernardo
Subs: Steele, Bruno, Bonbg, Kayla, Bissama, Locadia, Andone
Referee: Stuart Attwell.