Chelsea 0 Brighton 0
On the evening when their planned involvement in the proposed European Super League was ended, Chelsea stumbled in their efforts to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
An evening that began against a backdrop of anger and protest ended with focus at least partially restored on Chelsea’s efforts to secure a place in the top four and Brighton’s battle to avoid relegation following a sequence of events that appear to have effectively killed off the planned Super League.
The outcome — a dull stalemate —meant Thomas Tuchel side’s moved back up to fourth place but missed out on the chance move two points clear of West Ham United who now lie fifth Before kick-off.
Around 1,000 Chelsea supporters gathered outside Stamford Bridge to provide the latest expression of dissent against the controversial new competition that had been announced on Sunday. Chelsea, along with the two Manchester clubs, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool were named among the initial 12 clubs to have signed up to a competition intended to operate as the pinnacle of European football but that attracted fierce opposition from all corners.
On Monday night, Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool players had been forced to witness protests at Elland Road ahead of their meeting with Leeds United when the Reds manager restated his opposition to a super league, and was followed by midfielder James Milner, a sign of dissent in one of the six clubs.
Twenty-four hours later, after a day of interventions by politicians, the heads of Uefa and Fifa, a meeting of other Premier League teams and threats of legal action from both sides of the divide, it was the turn of Chelsea fans to voice their anger. Their views were clear from the banners and signs held aloft and from the chants that could be heard as the protesters blocked traffic outside.
Petr Cech spoke to the fans, urging them to be patient and first, clear the road to allow the team buses to get through. The goalkeeper turned technical and performance director’s efforts were helped when news came through that Chelsea were preparing to withdraw from the super league, a decision apparently driven by owner Roman Abramovich and the club board after witnessing the negative global reaction to the plans.
Earlier in the day, Pep Guardiola had voiced his criticism of the proposed competition with Manchester City confirming they pulling out, the proposals are unravelling fast, a view that was only reinforced by the news last night that Ed Woodward, the Manchester United executive vice-chairman, will step down from his role at the end of the year.
Certainly the news took the sting out of Brighton’s decision to warm up in t-shirts bearing the Champions League logo and the message ‘Earn It’.
Tuchel insisted he was unaware of any developments in his pre-match interview, but admitted the last 48 hours had proved a distraction. “I don’t know anything, I spent the last 45 minutes on the bus waiting to come to the stadium,” he said. “I know I am in a super competitive club and I trust the club.
“I am not aware of any of the politics. I don’t know enough and I trust the club they take decisions in the consideration we embrace competitive sport. It is annoying and frustrating. From Monday we wanted to build the momentum and atmosphere and being ready. It was not our fault but we have to accept we are a bit distracted and now we will see.”
Brighton manager Graham Potter was clear he was pleased at the turn of events before his side attempted to strengthen their hold on their top flight position. “If we are in a place where it is stopping, that is fantastic news,” he said. “Sometimes a fan can be thought of as a consumer and we are in danger if that is the case. Credit to the fans for making their case, and the quicker we get back to playing for points the better.”
On the pitch, there was less to get enthused about. Brighton were determined in their defensive efforts that restricted Chelsea just just a handful of half chances while going forward, they created the best openings of the game, particularly in the final 15 minutes when substitute Adam Lallana fired wide and then drew a save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, either side of an excellent Danny Welbeck shot that struck the post. Brighton’s Ben White was sent off in added time for a second yellow.
CHELSEA (3-4-3): Arrizabalaga 6; Christensen 6, Zouma 5, Christenson 6; James 6, Jorginho 6, Mount 6, Alonso 5 (Hudson-Odoi 67, 6); Havertz 5 (Werner 67, 6), Ziyech 5 (Giroud 77, 6), Pulisic 5.
Not used: Mendy, Kante, Chilwell, Gilmour, Azpilicueta, Emerson.
BRIGHTON (3-5-2): Sanchez 6; White 6, Dunk 6, Webster 6; Veltman 6, Gross 6, Bissouma 7, Mac Allister 6 (Maupay 73, 6), Burn 6; Trossard 6 (Lallana 60, 6), Welbeck 7 (Moder 86, 6).
Not used: Steele, Jahanbakhsh, Alzate, Izquierdo, Propper, Zeqiri.
Referee: Stuart Attwelll