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Chelsea edges closer to European football

In a pivotal Premier League match, Chelsea secured a critical 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, leveraging Newcastle United's loss to Manchester United to climb to the sixth spot in the standings. The Tuesday night encounter saw goals from Cole Palmer and Christopher Nkunku ensure that Chelsea remained in contention for the last European ticket.

Commanding start

From the outset, Chelsea displayed a commanding presence, applying pressure and maintaining control, a stance that persisted until Reece James was sent off. James, making his first start since December, received a red card for a retaliatory action late in the game, which slightly marred Chelsea's otherwise disciplined performance. The match wasn't without its controversies. Early on, Chelsea appealed for a penalty when Marc Cucurella went down in the box following a challenge by Facundo Buonanotte. Initially awarded by the referee, the decision was reversed after VAR intervention. Chelsea finally broke the deadlock after 30 minutes of intense play. Palmer, assisted by Cucurella, headed a beautiful goal into the far corner, leaving Verbruggen no chance. Nicolas Jackson thought he had doubled the lead just before halftime, but his goal was disallowed for offside.

Securing the win

The second half saw Chelsea continue to dominate, with Jackson notably squandering several opportunities to extend the lead. However, it was Nkunku who eventually sealed the win. After receiving a pass from Malo Gusto, Nkunku coolly finished, making it 2-0. Despite their numerical disadvantage following James' dismissal, Chelsea managed the game well. Brighton found a late consolation goal through Danny Welbeck, who turned in a cross from Joao Pedro, bringing the score to 2-1 during the extended injury time. Nonetheless, Chelsea held on to secure the victory.

European football

This win is significant for Chelsea as they capitalize on Newcastle United's loss to secure a stronger position for European qualification. As the season nears its end, every match becomes crucial, and Chelsea's ability to grind out results under pressure could be the key to securing a spot in the Conference League. Brighton, on the other hand, fulfilled their sportive duty despite having little left to play for this season. With a draw on Sunday the sixth place is secured. A win might even lead to a fifth place finish. The sixth place guarantees Conference League football, but can also lead to Europa League football. Depending on the FA Cup final result, the second Europa League ticket can be rewarded to the number 6 in the Premier League.