Chelsea and Brighton played out a dismal 0-0 draw in the Premier League on a Tuesday night that will go down in football history.
In a game that threatened to pale into insignificance due to events off the pitch at Stamford Bridge, it was the total non-event that happened on it that made sure of that.
The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock actually came in the dying embers of the game, with Danny Welbeck thundering an attempt off the upright for the away side in the 79th minute.
Brighton would lose Ben White to a red card in injury time, but the toothless Blues never looked like taking advantage. It is hard to gauge how much it will dampen the elation Chelsea fans will be feeling tonight following the news that the club were the first to pull the plug on their entrance to a European Super League project that looks doomed.
The ramifications may rumble on, but for now attention can turn to what matters most – a Premier League top four race in which Thomas Tuchel’s men have stuttered into holding the initiative in, and a vital fixture against West Ham to that end on Saturday.
It was a cagey start to the match by both sides and the real first happening of note didn’t come to fruition until ten minutes had passed. Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez spilled the ball with Kai Havertz lurking, but the visitors were able to deal with the danger.
Two chances shortly followed. A trademark Hakim Ziyech pearler on his left peg dropped tantalisingly beyond the reach of the predatory Marcos Alonso, before a lively Christian Pulisic lashed wide.
The Seagulls were caught cold in the 20th minute. Adam Webster played the ball straight to Mason Mount under pressure from Ziyech, and the former’s attempt to play in the latter rebounded by way of Havertz. The German poked the ball towards goal, but Sanchez was well equal to it. Kurt Zouma followed up with a speculative effort from all of 35 yards that was gobbled up by Brighton’s giant between the sticks.
The match settled into a timid pattern before an Antonio Rüdiger and Yves Bissouma 50/50 in the 33rd minute. Chelsea seemed intent on making their mark, although more in the sense of a mark on the opposition than the scoreline – two yellow cards for Jorginho and Kurt Zouma in quick succession is testament to that.
The home side may well have their Italian midfield maestro to thank for going into the break with the stalemate. Jorginho managed a vital block on a vicious attempt from Bissouma that seemed goalbound before looping on to the roof of the net.
After all the political pandemonium before the kick off, the referee’s whistle brought to a close a first half that was a cure for insomnia. How much the disruption to the home side’s travel plans factored into their laboured performance would be pure guesswork, but it wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes’ powers of deduction to work out that Thomas Tuchel would have been disappointed in his side’s showing.
The second half started much in the same vein as the first period, although the tame and uninspired play was broken up by the Moroccan magician Ziyech leaving Webster for dust in minute 49 and playing in Pulisic. The American’s run was well snuffed out by the Brighton backline, but it was better from the Blues.
A lesser-spotted Mason Mount had the rare opportunity some time thereafter to drive forward from his position in the pivot tonight, driving towards goal with real intent before sliding in Chelsea’s Captain America – who I dare say met the wall that is Brighton’s Thanos in childhood Blues fan Lewis Dunk.
The well-respected English stalwart Adam Lallana would enter the fray before the Pensioners responded in kind with a couple of changes of their own in the 67th minute. Marcos Alonso made way for Callum Hudson-Odoi, and it was one German for another as Timo Werner took to the field in place of a tiring Havertz.
Reece James moving across to be deployed at left-back was one of the more exciting developments up until this point, which speaks volumes about the quality on display in the fixture. Referee Stuart Atwell affording free kicks to the away side like they were going out of fashion was also one noticeable observation to be made.
Going into the final 15 minutes, Brighton made their intentions to go for it clear by introducing the pantomime villain Neal Maupay for Alexis Mac Allister. The Brighton forward may have had a claim to being the most handsome Frenchman on the pitch – that is, for all of two minutes before Chelsea’s resident chad Olivier Giroud
It was another Frenchman who was almost left with egg on his face. Kurt Zouma dilly-dallied on the ball for far too long at the back, running into a posse of Brighton heavies. Their ring-leader, Lallana, bended the ball towards the bottom corner and it drifted inches wide.
Ignited into life by the beleaguered Blues, the Seagulls came on to the home side and had a litany of chances in succession in minute 79. Kepa Arrizabalaga was beaten by an attempt from that guy Danny Welbeck, but was saved by the upright. The Spaniard then did well to get down quickly to a fierce low drive from Lallana.
The game slowly fizzled out, but there was still time for Ben White to receive his second yellow for chopping down Hudson-Odoi in stoppage time. Unsurprisingly, the resulting free kick came to nothing, and the final whistle ended the agony of tonight’s proceedings. In the final analysis, Chelsea may well be happy with a point given their opponents had the better chances.