Eden Hazard a fabulous 9/10 for aggressive Chelsea in 4-0 victory
Chelsea rediscovered their goalscoring touch in fine style, thrashing Brighton 4-0 at the Amex Stadium. Eden Hazard, in scintillating form, scored two goals, and the Blues' talisman was involved in a superb team move that led to Willian also finding the net. A well-deserved goal for Victor Moses rounded off a pleasing afternoon on the south coast for the London club, who will be buoyed by the result ahead of their forthcoming and decisive Carabao Cup semifinal second-leg tie with Arsenal at the Emirates.
Despite plenty of chances being created, goals have been hard to come by for Chelsea in January, so it was pleasing to see both Hazard and Willian back on the score sheet. With striker Alvaro Morata suspended and out of form anyway, Conte desperately needed the duo to conjure the magic they are both capable of and get the Blues out of the rut they have found themselves in, and they didn't let him down.
Defensively, Chelsea rode their luck as Marcos Alonso toiled, and they had stand-in keeper Willy Caballero to thank for a series of great saves, although his erratic nature was unnerving, and he lacked the authority of Thibaut Courtois, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- A combination of injuries, illness and suspensions to key players forced Conte's hand when it came to team selection. Playing 3-4-3, Chelsea came out of the blocks so quickly, presumably at the Italian's behest, that they caught Brighton out, scored two early goals and effectively had the game won inside the first 10 minutes.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 7 -- Making his Premier League debut for Chelsea, Caballero's slightly erratic performance had older Blues supporters drawing parallels with a cult-hero keeper: the late Petar Borota, who kept goal for the London club in the late 1970s and early '80s. A mix of great saves and good fortune brought with them a memorable clean sheet for the Argentine.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Skipper in the absence of Gary Cahill, Azpilicueta had a busier afternoon than the scoreline might suggest. Constantly drawn across the back line to help firefight problems on Chelsea's left, the Spain international took it all comfortably in his stride and provided a calming influence on Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger in what was a hectic encounter.
DF Andreas Christensen, 6 -- Put in another reasonably assured performance in the centre of Conte's back line. Sensibly withdrawn before the hour mark following a clash of heads with Shane Duffy.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- Along with Alonso, for the best part of an hour Rudiger struggled to contain Ezequiel Schelotto, who posed Brighton's greatest threat going forward. Life got easier for the Germany international after Davide Zappacosta replaced Alonso.
MF Victor Moses, 8 -- Enjoyed plenty of freedom on the right flank going forward and combined well with Willian. A well-timed run to the byline and cross presented Hazard with the half chance he needed to open the scoring for Chelsea. Moses showed a lovely touch of skill when controlling Charly Musonda's lofted pass and rifling it past Mat Ryan to make it 4-0.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- The type of energetic game that Kante thrives on. Chelsea's midfield general called the shots from box to box, working seamlessly with defence and attack while covering for Tiemoue Bakayoko's occasional lapses of concentration.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 6 -- Despite being more than halfway into his first season with Chelsea, Bakayoko still seems ill at ease with the pace of the Premier League. Showed some decent touches and wasn't shy in the tackle, but all too often was easily bypassed, and the Blues might have been punished by higher-calibre opposition.
MF Marcos Alonso, 5 -- Uncharacteristically off the pace, Alonso never really got into the game and looked very limited defensively against Schelotto. Replaced by Zappacosta in the 75th minute.
FW Willian, 8 -- Another effervescent performance brim full of skill from Willian, whose performance against Brighton screamed out "pick me every week" to Conte. A beautiful team move that deserved a goal provided the Brazil international with the opportunity to try his luck with a searing shot that screamed into the top corner of the net.
FW Eden Hazard, 9 -- Opened the scoring with a sweetly taken strike, was involved in the fabulous, one-touch build-up play to Willian's goal and rounded off an outstanding man-of-the-match performance when scoring Chelsea's third goal. Brighton could find no legal solution to Hazard's probing runs, and unfortunately for them, the Belgium international was full of running for the full 90 minutes.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 7 -- The fact that this was only Batshuayi's fourth Premier League start for Chelsea speaks volumes for the level of trust Conte has in his ability, but with Morata and Pedro suspended, Conte's options up front were limited. Despite the neglect, the 24-year-old striker's enthusiasm for playing for the Blues remains undimmed, and his skilful involvement in Willian's goal was the highlight of the game for him.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Replaced Christensen and put in a drama-free 30-minute defensive shift.
MF Davide Zappacosta, NR -- Replaced the ineffective Alonso and shored up Chelsea's left flank, which Brighton had worked in their favour from an attacking point of view.
FW Charly Musonda, NR -- A late substitute for Willian, 21-year-old Musonda capped a fine cameo with a wonderful looping pass to assist Moses with Chelsea's final goal.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco