BRIGHTON, United Kingdom, Sep 15 – Chelsea kicked off their Premier League campaign with a 3-1 win at Brighton on Monday as Timo Werner made a confident debut following Frank Lampard’s spending spree.
Blues boss Lampard has spent around £200 million (Sh29bn) on a host of new signings and the early returns on his lavish investment were promising.
Germany striker Werner, a £53 million recruit from Leipzig, won the penalty that Jorginho converted to put Chelsea ahead.
Kai Havertz, who made a £70 million switch from Bayer Leverkusen, wasn’t quite so impactful, but Lampard will be confident there are better days to come from the young Germany forward.
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was guilty of another mistake when Leandro Trossard equalised for Brighton.
But Reece James’ superb strike put Chelsea back in front before Kurt Zouma’s deflected effort sealed the points.
It was an encouraging opening to the campaign for Lampard, who has accepted he is under pressure to deliver a title challenge after spending more than any other club so far in the summer transfer window.
Chelsea finished 33 points behind champions Liverpool in fourth last season before a disappointing FA Cup final defeat against Arsenal, but they are primed to improve if Lampard can gel his new signings.
Lampard’s other expensive recruits, former Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech and ex-Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell, were both sidelined by injuries, while Thiago Silva wasn’t available as he returns to training following his free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.
The historians among Chelsea’s fanbase will have noted this was the third time they have started a Premier League campaign with a Monday night victory, with the Blues going on to win the title on the previous occasions in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
The only frustration for Lampard was Kepa’s howler.
The world’s most expensive keeper was already under pressure to improve after an error-strewn season and with Chelsea having spoken to Rennes about Senegal keeper Edouard Mendy, his days as first choice might be numbered.
– Classy Werner –
Werner was Chelsea’s central striker while Havertz lined up on the right flank in the three-man attack.
It was Werner who showed all his class as Chelsea took the lead in the 23rd minute.
Brighton midfielder Steven Alzate surrendered possession with a wayward pass and Jorginho fed Werner, who raced through on goal and was brought down by Mat Ryan as he rounded the Albion keeper.
Jorginho stepped up to take the penalty and Chelsea’s captain sent Ryan the wrong way with his trademark hop before shooting.
Kepa’s panicked flap at a corner would have done nothing to win over Lampard, but he did keep out Alzate’s long-range drive with a good save before half-time.
Adam Lallana was making his Brighton debut, but the often-injured former Liverpool midfielder lasted just 45 minutes before limping off.
Although Chelsea weren’t as fluid as Lampard would have liked, Werner was a real threat with his astute movement and he accelerated away from Lewis Dunk for a shot that Ryan saved at his near post.
Brighton were on top at the start of the second half and Aaron Connolly volleyed into the side-netting from Solly March’s cross.
Graham Potter’s side equalised in the 54th minute when Trossard’s 20-yard shot slipped under Kepa’s weak attempted save.
Kepa’s blunder is likely to push him closer to another spell on the sidelines after he was dropped last season.
But it wasn’t fatal for Chelsea as James restored their lead just 100 seconds later with a stunning 30-yard blast.
The right-back’s first Premier League goal was almost cancelled out when Dunk headed wide from close range.
But Chelsea’s luck was in and they sealed the points in the 66th minute.
Zouma met James’ corner with a volley that took a heavy deflection of Adam Webster to wrong-foot Ryan as it trickled into the net.