A first home win in the league felt good to Blues manager Frank Lampard… but just as good was that clean sheet.
Whether Chelsea have found their ideal back line after Saturday afternoon’s 2-0 victory over Brighton remains debatable, but the relief was there for all to see as the defence left the pitch with beaming grins.
Mind you, they rode their luck. Lofty Seagull Dan Burn, all 6ft 7in of him, sent a downward header towards the Blus’ goal in the 72nd minute, and it bounced on the ground, rebounded into the air and grazed the crossbar on its way over.
That would have made it 1-1 after Jorginho’s 50th minute penalty buried itself in the corner of the net, leaving Mat Ryan motionless in the centre of the Brighton goal.
Instead, on 76 minutes, Willian fired a shot from the right, it deflected off poor Burn’s outstretched foot, and sailed in for Chelsea’s second.
“We’ve been waiting for this,’ said Lampard afterwards. “The reason we’ve not won at home [in the league] before today is because we’ve not put together a 90-minute performance to win a game.
“We’ve put together parts of games – half against Leicester, half against Sheffield United – but today we put in a good performance. It was solid, comfortable and professional, even if it lacked more goals, because we created enough to score four or five.”
That was true. Chance after chance went begging. On another afternoon, a couple could easily have gone in to make it a more overwhelming score.
But that would have been harsh on Brighton, who went in level at halftime after a sterling defensive display.
The first half was characterised by a bizarre rash of yellow cards – four in 10 minutes – by ref Chris Kavanagh, including a caution for keeper Kepa, who reacted to Neal Maupay obstructing him as he tried to kick a ball out from his area.
By the end, however, it was the ‘nil’ bit of the scoreline that had Lampard purring. “A clean sheet is something we’ve been striving for,” he said. “It was a good day all round, and good for confidence in the dressing room.”
Next up for the Blues, away trips to Lille and Southampton.