He’s back. Romelu Lukaku scored for his second game in succession in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with a very attacking Brighton & Hove Albion. Both teams attacked with incision and intent, making for an entertaining encounter at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian’s fifth Premier League goal of the season will be a welcome sight for Chelsea fans, as the forward looks to be returning to his best form. The result won’t have been what Thomas Tuchel wanted, but his star striker’s resurgence could not have come at a better time.
Lukaku made a lively start, with his movement causing problems in the Brighton defence. Callum Hudson-Odoi was also an effervescent presence, cutting inside from wide positions on a number of occasions. Brighton were dangerous at times too, usually when former Chelsea man Tariq Lamptey terrorised his former club on the right flank. The wing back had a penalty claim waved away when Reece James appeared to bring him down, and he turned the same opponent inside out before dragging a shot wide shortly afterwards.
James would leave the field injured after a collision with Yves Bissouma, and was replaced with Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard had been rested by Thomas Tuchel, with Christian Pulisic deployed in an unfamiliar wing back role.
Lukaku opened the scoring when he shrugged off Neal Maupay at a corner and drove a powerful header past Robert Sanchez. There was a VAR check afterwards, pertaining to the tussle with Maupay, but the goal was eventually given. The Brighton forward was down for the duration of the VAR check, but Lukaku was adjudged to have acted legally.
Graham Potter’s men fought back, testing Edouard Mendy on a handful of occasions. Bissouma drew a save from distance, and Adam Lallana fired a great hit through a crowded box before Mendy dived to deny him. Lamptey sent another shot over from distance, as Brighton probed before half time.
The second half continued at the relentless attacking pace of the first, with a truly end-to-end encounter unfolding. A classy Lallana ball over the top found Jakub Moder, who drew a spectacular stop from Mendy. The French goalkeeper acrobatically tipped the attempt over the bar to keep his side ahead. Chelsea responded with a blistering counter-attack, with Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount going two-on-one in front of Brighton’s goal. The winger botched his pass and the chance went begging.
Brighton would have further chances, with Maupay going close on two occasions. First, the Frenchman dragged Rudiger and substitute Trevoh Chalobah out of position before fizzing a shot wide. Then Mendy abandoned his post after some brilliant play from Alexis Mac Allister, and Maupay’s shot on an empty goal was blocked by Rudiger.
A feisty encounter never dropped below a frenetic pace. Lukaku was influential throughout, constantly providing a passing option for teammates. The former Manchester United forward ghosted into the box and had a good shot blocked. N’golo Kante’s energy from the bench was an asset as the clocked ticked down, and the World Cup winner caused problems with his bursts of pace from deep. After a valiant effort, Brighton found themselves pegged back as the game inched towards a conclusion.
Just when all looked lost, substitute Danny Welbeck popped up with a brilliant header to conclude a superb passing move. Chelsea had looked home and hosed, seeming to have finally quelled their ambitious opponents. Graham Potter’s men live to surprise though, and they were good value for a point in a wonderful Stamford Bridge encounter.