Frank Lampard says his expensively reshaped Chelsea side “have to have intentions to be up there” with champions Liverpool after they began their campaign with victory at Brighton.
Chelsea finished 33 points adrift of the Reds last season and lost both league fixtures against them but have spent around £200m this summer.
Timo Werner – signed from RB Leipzig – and his Germany team-mate Kai Havertz – brought in from Bayer Leverkusen – made their debuts for a side forced to work hard for their win in Monday’s game at Brighton.
Werner was pacy and prominent in the victory, winning a 23rd-minute penalty when he was hauled down by Brighton keeper Mat Ryan, Jorginho scoring the resulting spot-kick.
The new signing had ice strapped to his leg at full-time following the collision to win the penalty but said he would be fit to face Liverpool in Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge.
Brighton lost summer signing Adam Lallana to injury before the break but were back on level terms after 54 minutes when Leandro Trossard’s 20-yard shot squirmed past Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea regained their lead two minutes later when Reece James ripped a 25-yard right-foot shot high past Ryan.
Brighton should have equalised when Lewis Dunk somehow headed wide at the far post, paying the price for the miss when Kurt Zouma’s shot was deflected past Ryan by Adam Webster.
“We definitely want to close that gap to Liverpool – we have to have intentions to be up there even though it is a big ask to win [the title],” said Lampard, who has also signed midfielder Hakim Ziyech and defenders Xavier Mbuyamba, Malang Sarr, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva this summer.
“We are behind, it’s step by step. Hopefully we can make big strides.”
Rusty Chelsea will take the points
Lampard will be delighted to leave Brighton win three points after what was a mixed performance, perhaps understandable for the first Premier League outing of the season.
Lampard got what he wanted, apart from a debut goal, from Werner as he was a constant menace, always on the move and looking to use his speed to get behind the Brighton defence. He had no trouble adjusting to the tempo of the Premier League and there seems little doubt goals will come.
Havertz was a more low-key presence on the right side of midfield in front of James but he worked hard in his 79 minutes and drew warm applause from Lampard for one lengthy recovery run back into his own penalty area to clear danger.
Chelsea were without injured left-back Chilwell, signed for £50m from Leicester City, and Silva as he has only just joined training and Lampard will be keen to get that influential duo into a defence that still looks vulnerable.
Tariq Lamptey’s crosses caused trouble all night and Chelsea were grateful for that headed miss by Dunk at the far post when it looked easier to score.
And once again there were questions over keeper Kepa, who got close to Trossard’s shot but allowed it to creep in.
It seems his time is running out as Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper, with the £20m signing of Rennes’ Edouard Mendy apparently imminent.
Brighton rue missed chance
Brighton can take some satisfaction through the pain of a defeat that will leave manager Graham Potter bitterly frustrated.
The Seagulls acquitted themselves very well and had the game’s outstanding performer in former Chelsea right-back Lamptey, who was industrious and creative in a top-class display.
And the momentum appeared to be with Brighton when Trossard scored a deserved equaliser – only for them to concede a second within two minutes from James’ thunderous finish.
Brighton then wasted the best chance of the game when Dunk headed wide and were unable to recover as Chelsea re-established a two-goal lead.
This was, however, a very respectable performance. On the down side, Potter is facing the issue he must have feared when he signed Lallana from Liverpool.
Lallana is a great asset when fit – but therein lies the problem. He did not last the first half and has now failed to play 90 minutes in the Premier League since he faced Middlesbrough for Liverpool in May 2017.
‘We’ll get better and better’ – what they said
Brighton manager Graham Potter to BBC Sport: “The performance was good in many aspects; we more than matched Chelsea for long periods. I’m disappointed with the opening goal, but errors can happen. We were heavily punished with a wonder strike – and ultimately, if you concede three times it’s hard to win football matches.
“You have moments against the big teams that you need to have go your way and we need to learn from that. But there are positives. Adam Lallana was enjoying the game, he brings that personality, we are pleased with what he has brought to us and we just have to help him get on the field more often.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard to BBC Sport: “To come to Brighton and win is a tough ask. We’ve only had a few days, so I didn’t expect the kind of football we want to play. We had to do some of the more difficult things – resilience, throwing yourself in front of the ball, so I’m pleased.
“We’ve had a lot of quarantines, a lot of players who aren’t match fit. That’s how this season has started. There’s a lot of strain on these players and hopefully we’ll get better and better.”
Man of the match – Tariq Lamptey (Brighton)
2,000 points – the best of the stats
This victory earned Chelsea their 2,000th point in the Premier League (1,077 games), making them the third side to reach that total since the competition began in 1992, after Manchester United (2,234) and Arsenal (2,014).
Brighton have won just one of their 10 home Premier League games in 2020 (D4 L5), the fewest of any side to have played two or more home matches in the competition this calendar year.
Since the start of last season, Chelsea’s 20 away Premier League games have produced 81 goals (42 for, 39 against), at least 14 more than any other side on their travels.
Chelsea have scored each of their past 16 penalties in the Premier League, since Eden Hazard missed from the spot against Manchester City in April 2017.
Jorginho has scored all eight of the penalties he has taken for Chelsea in all competitions (excluding shootouts), including five in the Premier League.
Since he joined Chelsea in 2018, Kepa Arrizabalaga has conceded more Premier League goals from outside the box (19) than any other goalkeeper. Indeed, excluding blocked shots, Kepa has conceded nine of the past 13 overall shots on target he has faced in the Premier League.
Leandro Trossard has scored three goals in his past six Premier League games for Brighton, as many as he netted in his first 26 appearances in the competition before this.
Kurt Zouma scored what was only his second Premier League goal for Chelsea (72nd appearance), and his first since September 2015 against Arsenal.
Brighton host Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup on Thursday, 17 September (19:45 BST) and return to Premier League action at Newcastle on Sunday, 20 September (14:00).
Meanwhile, Chelsea host champions Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, 20 September (16:30) in the Premier League.