Brighton spoils Chelsea's New Year party while Villa ensures a vital victory
London, January 1 (AFP) Alireza Jahanbakhsh's spectacular aerial kick earned Brighton a share of the points against Chelsea and cushioned Frank Lampard's New Year celebrations on Wednesday when Aston Villa secured a vital victory against Burnley.
Chelsea's 1-1 draw on the south coast of England gave them a five-point lead over Manchester United, fifth ranked, in the race to secure Champions League football for next season.
César Azpilicueta gave the visitors an early advantage, tapping from a short distance after a corner kick in the 10th minute, but Brighton was never out of play and caught up in the 84th minute courtesy of Jahanbakhsh's magic moment .
It was frustrating for different reasons, Lampard told BT Sport.
In the first half, the game was there to be won. We weren't ruthless enough. We got the goal and we had possession. But we don't end the game.
We allow them to remain in the game. In the end it was a wonderful goal, but we were lucky not to lose the game. The Chelsea boss said he was worried about the lack of consistency on his side, which beat Tottenham and Arsenal in recent weeks, but also lost at home to Southampton.
The visiting team dominated the opening time of the game, but held on to the end with the impressive Kepa Arrizabalaga denying Neal Maupay in the final minutes.
Christian Pulisic will regret three wasted starts that ultimately prevented Chelsea from cementing his domain.
Lampard's team was quickly at the top since the beginning of the game and deservedly took the lead through Azpilicueta, who finished a short distance after the ball fell.
But Brighton enjoyed a possession spell towards the end of the first half and Leandro Trossard tested Kepa with a powerful blow that the Chelsea goalkeeper stopped.
Lampard's team advanced rapidly after the break, but Pulisic did not take full advantage of his chances and was replaced by Callum Hudson-Odoi in the 66th minute.
Brighton kept fighting and Kepa was forced to produce an outstanding save from Aaron Connolly in the 80th minute when the home team pressed for a draw.
His persistence was worth minutes later. Lewis Dunk kept the ball alive from a corner and Iranian midfielder Jahanbakhsh acrobatically found the lower left corner to give his team part of the points.
- Grealish inspires Villa -
On the other kick-off, Villa beat Burnley 2-1 despite seeing Jack Grealish's opening goal controversial by VAR.
Wesley advanced to Villa in the 27th minute and Captain Grealish doubled his team's lead four minutes before the break when his powerful effort found the upper corner. Chris Wood scored a goal for Burnley with 10 minutes left, but Villa held on to secure all three points.
It was massive. We only had one visitor victory in the entire season before this, Grealish told the BBC.
To come here, one of the most difficult places in the league, was well deserved and very necessary.
Speaking about his goal that was ruled out, he said: I knew I was going to be rejected, when you see some of the decisions in the last two weeks. When you score, you have the feeling that it will be rejected. When I really wanted to dial again and fortunately I did.
Leicester, second classified, will face Newcastle later on Wednesday, with Tottenham and Wolves, who also chase the Champions League football next season, also in action.
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City will receive Everton from Carlo Ancelotti in one of the first games of the night before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United starts against Arsenal in the last match. The fugitive Liverpool leaders face Sheffield United on Thursday. AFP SSC SSC