Nkunku returns with a bang as 10-man Chelsea beat Brighton to keep Europa League dreams alive

Christopher Nkunku of Chelsea celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 during the Premier League match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton and Hove. || Image credit: Imago

Nkunku returns with a bang as 10-man Chelsea beat Brighton to keep Europa League dreams alive

Faruq Ibrahim 21:56 - 15.05.2024

Chelsea are now one win away from a Europa League spot after beating Brighton 2-1.

Chelsea were cruising to a 2-0 victory before a Reece James red card complicated matters. Brighton pulled one back, but the Blues had enough buffer and managed to hold on to three points.

var widgetLoaderConfig = widgetLoaderConfig || { CDN_URL: 'https://widgets.sportal365.com', APP_LINK: 'desktop', API_URL: 'https://africa.football.api.sportal365.com/', API_KEY: '2f852b4de2f3a5cf3188e74b33087bb4:2c18422f8e826a7d11aeed52edb2449e', LANG: 'en', REQUEST_INTERVAL: 30, ENABLE_BET_SLIP: false, AUTHOR: false, THEME: "light", TOURNAMENT_ORDER: "pulse_nigeria", LINK_OPTIONS_V2: { 'player' : { 'url': '/football/player/{playerId}' }, 'team' : { 'url': '/football/{teamId}' }, 'tournament': { 'url': '/football/competition/{tournamentId}' }, 'match': { 'url' : '/football/match/{matchId}', 'sort': { 'criteria': 'alphabetically', 'direction': 'asc' } }, 'configuration': { 'newWindow': false }, 'standings_tournament': { 'url': '/football/competition/{tournamentId}/standings' } } }; if (!document.querySelector('script[src="https://widgets.sportal365.com/loader.bundle.min.js"]')) { window.setTimeout(function () { let scriptCss = document.createElement('link'); scriptCss.href = 'https://www.pulsesports.ng/css/sport-widgets.css?v=1668785443'; scriptCss.rel = 'stylesheet'; scriptCss.type = 'text/css'; document.body.appendChild(scriptCss); let scriptTag = document.createElement('script'); scriptTag.src = 'https://widgets.sportal365.com/loader.bundle.min.js'; scriptTag.defer = true; scriptTag.onload = function () { window.setTimeout(function () { new SMPWidgetsLoader(widgetLoaderConfig); }, 200); }; document.head.appendChild(scriptTag); }, 0); } else { new SMPWidgetsLoader(widgetLoaderConfig); }

Mauricio Pochettino's team have had a remarkable turnaround and are now on course for qualification for the Europa League. With the win against Brighton, Chelsea now need to merely win their final game of the season to guarantee their place in the second-tier European competition.

How it happened

The match kicked into top gear from kickoff, with Noni Madueke testing Bart Verbruggen with the game’s first shot on target just three minutes into the game. 

Both teams traded efforts, with Simon Adingra and Cole Palmer coming close before Palmer found the breakthrough for Chelsea in the 34th minute. The young talent displayed remarkable skill, heading in Marc Cucurella’s cutback to give Chelsea the lead.

A report earlier in the evening revealed that the Premier League will vote to keep or scrap VAR next season. The technology is still in use during this campaign, however, and it came under scrutiny later in the half when Tariq Lamptey appeared to elbow Mykhaylo Mudryk in the head, forcing the Ukrainian off the field. However, VAR chose not to intervene, allowing Lamptey to escape without punishment. 

The second half saw Chelsea waste several opportunities to extend their lead, with Nicolas Jackson missing chances to provide the killer pass. Brighton responded with Pascal Gross firing wide before Malo Gusto and Christopher Nkunku combined to double Chelsea's lead. Nkunku calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner, returning from injury with a bang.

Despite Chelsea's dominance, Brighton fought back, with Danny Welbeck tapping in from close range after Reece James received a red card for a petulant kickout. Ansu Fati also hit the post in stoppage time, but Chelsea held on for the win.

With this victory, Chelsea climbed to sixth in the table, keeping their hopes alive of catching Tottenham Hotspur in fifth place. On the other hand, Brighton's top-half position is under threat after winning just two of their last 12 top-flight fixtures.