Premier League

Tuchel almost concedes title after Chelsea 1-1 with Brighton

(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON (AP) Chelsea dropped more points in the Premier League title race by conceding a stoppage-time goal to Danny Welbeck to draw 1-1 with Brighton on Wednesday.

The draw lifted Chelsea into second place, above Liverpool, but a win was needed to keep in sight of in-form leader Manchester City.

It looked like Chelsea was about to earn three points despite a lackluster display at Stamford Bridge, only for Welbeck -- on as a substitute -- to head home a left-wing cross from Marc Cucurella in the first minute of stoppage time.

Romelu Lukaku scored for the second straight game to put Chelsea in front in the 28th minute, moments after Reece James hobbled off with what appeared a serious hamstring injury. Chelsea also lost another defender, Andreas Christensen, to a back injury at halftime.

Chelsea, which has drawn three of its last four games in the league, plays Liverpool on Sunday and manager Thomas Tuchel virtually conceded his team was no longer in title contention.

"How should we be in it?" Tuchel said. "We have seven COVID(-19) cases. We have five or six players out for six or more weeks. How should we compete in a title race?

"Everyone else who has a full squad, everybody in training has the full power to come through this league. We would be stupid to think we can do it out of COVID and injuries and just play, and everybody would be stupid to do it without 23 fit players."

Asked if the Premier League's integrity has been lost through the differing COVID profiles of each team, Tuchel said: "This is the reality. This is where we are and we have to adapt to the demands of the situation which you are in.

"I competed very hard for the win at Brighton at home. I don't know what I can expect from my players in terms of physicality, intensity or minutes. Nobody knows any more because we have never done something like this. We play trial and error and see what we can do."

Chelsea has something of a defensive injury crisis ahead of the Liverpool match, with James and Christensen likely out, Thiago Silva still doubtful because of a thigh problem and Ben Chilwell out for the season with a knee ligament injury.

Brighton proved full value for the draw in an end-to-end encounter.

"I thought it was a fantastic performance from the players, full of courage, quality and against a good side of course," said Brighton manager Graham Potter.

"To come here and be ourselves was a big challenge. So credit to the players."

More AP soccer: and

Updated December 29, 2021