Brighton 0 Chelsea 4
Eden Hazard scored twice to cap a marvellous individual display as Chelsea recorded their first victory of 2018 at the Amex Stadium.
Goals in the first six minutes of the match by Hazard and Willian put the Blues in control.
Brighton had a strong penalty shout turned down in the first half, and hit the bar after the break, while Willian’s free-kick was tipped on to the post by Albion keeper Mat Ryan.
Hazard’s fine solo run and finish made it 3-0 before Victor Moses completed the rout late on.
Antonio Conte’s side came into the game off the back of five successive draws in all competitions, and with a host of injuries and suspensions – goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (ankle) captain Gary Cahill (muscle) and midfielder Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) were all ruled out, alongside the banned Pedro and Alvaro Morata.
But those who were fit and available put on a show in the opening minutes against hesitant home defending.
The opener came when Dale Stephens’ weak clearance from Moses’ cross fell to Hazard, who made space for himself before beating Ryan with a rasping drive.
The second was simply dazzling as flicks from Michy Batshuayi and Hazard released Willian on the edge of the box, and the Brazilian drilled beyond Ryan.
Willy Caballero, standing in for Courtois in the Blues’ goal, gave his defence a few palpitations, as he came for a cross that he failed to get enough on to and then appeared to clip Ezequiel Schelotto in the box as the wing-back followed up the loose ball.
However, he later atoned as he reacted well to save Tomer Hemed’s close-range header.
Both sides hit the woodwork in the second half, Davy Propper’s header coming back off the bar at one end and Ryan denying Willian at the other.
A sleeping Marcos Alonso then presented Brighton with a chance, but the advancing Caballero denied Schelotto.
Chelsea killed the game off as a contest when Hazard was fed in the left-hand channel and allowed to advance unchecked across the box, before slotting in.
Substitute Charly Musonda created the fourth, setting Moses free with a delightful ball.
Chelsea: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen (Luiz 58), Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso (Zappacosta 75); Willian (Musonda 81), Batshuayi, Hazard.
Subs not used: Eduardo, Sterling, Ampadu, Barkley.