Chelsea kicked off 2020 with a 1-1 draw away to Brighton and Hove Albion, continuing their inconsistent season.
The Blues took the lead in the first half through Cesar Azpilicueta and looked to be holding on to all three points until Alireza Jahanbakhsh equalised late on.
Dropping points again, Chelsea could now end New Year’s Day just two clear of fifth place if other results go against them.
So, who were the biggest winners and losers?
Winner: Alireza Jahanbakhsh
Alireza Jahanbakhsh looked as though he would be leaving Brighton this month after struggling for playing time under Graham Potter. Prior to last weekend, he had made just one Premier League appearance, amassing 22 minutes in total, having already failed to live up to expectations in his first campaign.
Signed from AZ Alkmaar in the summer of 2018, Jahanbakhsh arived at Brighton with fairly high expectations, having finished the Eredivisie’s top scorer in his final campaign.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh did not score a single goal for Brighton in his first season with the club…
⚽️ vs. Bournemouth
⚽️ vs. Chelsea
Now he has two in two. ? pic.twitter.com/I1pKZmw1KJ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 1, 2020
But he had to wait until the weekend to to score his first Premier League goal, 601 days after his final Eredivisie strike, as Brighton ran out 2-0 winners over Bournemouth. His performance was not enough to earn a second consecutive start but he did come on in the second half against Chelsea, and boy did he make a difference.
Boosted by the fact that Chelsea’s lead was only one, Brighton continued to press a Blues defence that has been weak at times. They finally got the equaliser in the final 10 minutes of the game from a set piece, but what a goal it was. Full of confidence from his goal at the weekend, Jahanbakhsh beat Kepa Arrizabalaga with a wonderful overhead kick to earn Brighton a point.
Loser: Frank Lampard
Things were going so well for Frank Lampard as the clock ticked down, with Chelsea looking en route to a third consecutive away win and a 10th league victory in a row against Brighton.
But, while Lampard got his substitutions against Arsenal spot on, his decisions on New Year’s Day helped Brighton get back into the game. First, Callum Hudson-Odoi came on for Christian Pulisic and did make a decent impact, but was let down by his output – missing a key chance when one-on-one.
Brighton have won a league point against Chelsea for the first time in their history.
Nine consecutive defeats ended by a spectacular equaliser. ? pic.twitter.com/Pa3j0dYE5X
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 1, 2020
Then came Mateo Kovacic for Mason Mount, the switch that completely changed the game. Kovacic has been excellent for Chelsea this season, one of the Blues’ best players, but against Brighton his cameo was poor.
The Croatian gave away two fouls in his 20 minutes on the pitch and was booked, allowing Brighton dangerous set pieces which eventually led to their equalising goal.
Lampard chose not to react to the equaliser, leaving Michy Batshuayi on the bench, and Chelsea were unable to regain the lead. It was the first time they have ever dropped points against Brighton in what was the 10th league meeting, and continues Chelsea’s inconsistent run this season.
Winner: Cesar Azpilicueta
Cesar Azpilicueta struggled as a wing-back against Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, eventually moving over to left-back. It was a position he kept for the trip to Brighton, starting ahead of Emerson with Reece James on the opposing flank.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 1, 2020
And, once again, the Spaniard showed how reliable he can be for Chelsea. On what was his 100th start as Blues’ captain, Azpilicueta kept the left side relatively safe for Chelsea, forcing Brighton to focus their attacks on the opposing flank.
He also opened the scoring for the Blues, tapping in from close range after Tammy Abraham’s initial shot was poorly cleared on the line by Aaron Mooy. It was his third goal of the season in all competitions, adding to two in the Champions League, equalling his career-highest tally set in 2017/18.
Despite Chelsea ultimately dropping points, it was a good display from the veteran whose three tackles were only bettered by one man – but more on him in a bit…
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Loser: Dan Burn
Brighton don’t have a good record against Chelsea, losing all nine of their previous league meetings, so the Seagulls went into Wednesday’s game knowing they would have a huge task on their hands.
Things didn’t get much better when the match started as Chelsea looked to strike Brighton early, focusing their initial attacks down their right flank. This saw Reece James and Willian teaming up against out-of-position centre-back Dan Burn – although he has been playing at left-back for some time this season.
A mountain of a man, Burn was given a tough start by James and Willian and lasted just 23 minutes before having to come off with a shoulder injury. It came from a robust, yet fair, aerial challenge from James and left Burn having to use his shirt as a makeshift sling as he was replaced by Bernardo.
Although nothing official has been said so far regarding the extent of Burn’s injury, the left-back looks like he could be out for at least a few weeks if not longer – if Kieran Tierney’s similar injury is anything to go by.
Winner: Reece James
Reece James wasn’t supposed to be fit for this game, with Frank Lampard revealing he would be out for a week or 10 days in the build up. But there he was in the starting XI at right-back when the teams were announced.
And, watching him complete the 90 minutes, you wouldn’t know he had been carrying an injury problem going into the match. James, who celebrated his 20th birthday last month, was excellent in both defence and attack for the large part of the game.
He completed more take-ons than any other player (three), made more tackles than any other player (four) and was not beaten by a single opponent. James also showed his strength and faith in himself when challenging Burn in a fair aerial duel, which unfortunately resulting in an injury for the Brighton man.
Loser: Neal Maupay
Although Brighton did come away with a point and the players will be happy with that fact, Neal Maupay may look back on his personal performance as one to forget.
Leading the line, the Frenchman had a poor game against Chelsea and really struggled to make any impact until the 89th minute when he tested Arrizabalaga with his first and only shot of the game.
He was overshadowed in the Brighton team by Aaron Connolly and Jahanbakhsh who both did more in their substitute appearances than Maupay did for the whole game. On top of just one effort, Maupay had 43 touches of the ball, fewer than any Brighton starter including goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and completed just 18 passes.