Brighton – Newcastle: Brighton and Hove Albion dismantled a disorganized Newcastle United 3-0 to pull six points clear of the bottom three and deepen their hex on their miserable visitors to the Amex Stadium.
Leandro Trossard had a goal and an assist while Neal Maupay and Danny Welbeck also scored in a total team performance from Brighton, who had 75 percent of the ball in the decisive first half and took all six of the match’s shots on target.
Facing another must-win, Steve Bruce’s ultra-defensive Magpies managed only three shot attempts and also failed to follow through with the aims of an ultra-defensive tactical plan.
The Magpies got Miguel Almiron back but lost Isaac Hayden to a gruesome injury, leaving Mike Ashley to consider his team’s fate in the Premier League with nine matches to play and just two points more than Fulham with a match-in-hand.
Three things we learned from Brighton – Newcastle
1. Brighton deservedly safer: The Seagulls have been irrationally this season in the Premier League and have no business going down to the Championship. Brighton entered the match eighth in expected goals, third in lowest expected goals against, and fifth in expected points. Somehow, the Seagulls were still 16th on the table.
2. Potter v Bruce = preordained result: At this point, anyone making excuses for Steve Bruce was in his wedding party or part of his family.
Graham Potter’s Brighton has the clearest positive identity of any bottom-half club you’ll fine, while ruce’s Newcastle is known for being worse than the sum of its parts. Throw in injuries to Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin, and there’s reason the Magpies were heavy underdogs with the bookies despite being just a point behind the Seagulls.
Consider this: Newcastle and Brighton played four halves this season. Brighton won the opener 3-0 at St. James’ Park. The Magpies were out-possessed 60-40 and out-attempted 6-1 in the first half of that one and put zero of six shots on target over 90 minutes.
Six months to the day, in a must-result, Newcastle’s first 45 minutes saw them out-possessed 74-26 and out-attempted 7-1. The Magpies had two attempts on the board, neither on target, after Brighton ceded a bit more of the ball with the lead.
3. All wrong, all the time: Needing goals, Bruce left two fullbacks who aren’t necessarily known for going forward (You could make an argument for Javier Manquillo but certainly not Paul Dummett). He put in Jeff Hendrick, a possession and defensive wreck, in when Hayden suffered his terrible injury. Down one, he took out Joe Willock for Jacob Murphy — like for like, in a sense — then put Sean Longstaff in for Miguel Almiron once the score was 3-0. Concerns about goal differential, if that’s why, are adorable: Newcastle’s margin was at minus-20 at that point and is five worse than its rivals for safety.
Man of the Match: Leandro Trossard
Brighton’s Belgian wizard had a goal and an assist in delivering the goods. Trossard is second in goals and assists amongst Brighton players but still will have expected to do much better this season. Only Maupay has taken and scored more shots and only Pascal Gross has more assists and key passes.