LONDON (AP) – Well before half-time, Brighton fans were already taunting the manager they adored with chants of “You’re being sacked in the morning.”
Graham Potter may not have to worry about being sacked just yet, but his return to Brighton has created the closest thing to a crisis he has experienced in his fledgling reign at Chelsea.
Brighton beat Chelsea 4-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday and handed Potter his first defeat since leaving the south coast club to take over the Blues in September. After a strong start under Potter, Chelsea dropped points in three consecutive league games following draws against Brentford and Manchester United.
And the worst part for Chelsea was that the score was not at all misleading.
Brighton were 2-0 up in the 14th minute and added a third before half-time, looking more confident and ambitious than the visitors, who saw striker Christian Pulisic miss his best chance when he somehow managed to shoot wide. wide open after a rebound. Kai Havertz reduced for Chelsea at the start of the second half, but Pascal Gross closed the scoring in stoppage time for the hosts.
“The atmosphere was very intense here, and we didn’t necessarily match that level of intensity from the start,” Potter said. “Clearly Brighton was better at what he did, so we have to take that as a lesson – even if it’s painful for us.”
Brighton has picked up just two points out of a possible 15 since Potter’s departure, but claimed the first victory under new manager Roberto De Zerbi – and the club’s first over Chelsea since 1933.
The defeat means Chelsea are eight points behind Manchester City, who took an overnight lead by beating Leicester 1-0 thanks to a perfect second-half free kick from Kevin De Bruyne.
Liverpool are far from title-minded after losing 2-1 at home to Leeds, the latest bad league result in what has been a difficult season for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Arsenal can regain top spot on Sunday by beating bottom-placed Nottingham Forest at home.
City were without striker Erling Haaland for the first time because of an ankle problem that will likely also see the Norwegian international miss the Champions League match against Sevilla midweek, if not the league game against Fulham next weekend.
“We have seven days until then, so we’ll see,” said City manager Pep Guardiola.
De Bruyne made sure that Haaland’s absence wasn’t much felt as he scored a 25-metre set-piece that dove under the bar and went through the post in the 49th minute.
Guardiola has publicly challenged De Bruyne, who has won the English football player of the year award for the past two seasons, to raise his bar even further for the club. The quality of the free kick the Belgian ace produced to beat Leicester was certainly first class.
“He’s back,” Guardiola said of De Bruyne. “He was not playing well the last few games. (Today he was) amazing. He knows that.”
BIG WIN FOR MARCH
Leeds manager Jesse Marsch was the league manager under the most pressure this round, with his team losing their last four games and falling into the relegation zone.
No wonder the coach was thrilled after the victory at Anfield, which was sealed by Crysencio Summerville’s 89th-minute goal.
Liverpool bounced back from conceding a bizarre opening goal in the fourth minute to Rodrigo after goalkeeper Alisson Becker slipped while trying to hit Joe Gomez’s pass just outside the area.
Mohamed Salah equalized and Liverpool had 22 shots in total, never looking convincing in their first league defeat in front of a crowd at Anfield since April 2017.
While Leeds slipped out of the relegation zone after their first win since August, Liverpool remained mid-table and within eight points of the top four.
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte was furious after his team were prevented from beating Sporting at the end of the week by VAR in the Champions League midweek, but there was no stopping the team’s celebrations after missing two goals to beat Bournemouth 3-2.
Substitute Rodrigo Bentancur scored in stoppage time to complete the Spurs’ comeback after Kieffer Moore’s two put Bournemouth to a two-goal lead. Ryan Sessegnon started the comeback in the 57th minute and Ben Davies equalized after a corner.
“It was vital to win this game,” said Conte, whose team had lost their last two league games.
NEW CASTLE DEVELOPED
Newcastle’s place in the top four looks increasingly assured.
The Saudi club beat Aston Villa 4-0 in their fifth win in their last six matches, including one over Spurs.
Newcastle consolidated fourth place, two points behind Tottenham and three points ahead of Chelsea.
After Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez suffered a concussion in the first half – having initially tried to play despite looking groggy after a collision – Callum Wilson scored two for Newcastle before Joelinton and Miguel Almiron added one each.
Crystal Palace beat Southampton 1-0 for their third straight home win, while Brentford settled down to a 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton, whose striker Diego Costa was sent off for a stoppage-time header.
Fulham and Everton drew 0-0.