If Sheffield United was only playing Brighton and Hove Albion this season, perhaps the Blades would not have been relegated last week.
Sheffield United beat Brighton 1-0 on Saturday at Bramall Lane, a David McGoldrick goal helping Blades collect their fifth win of the season and fourth point from the desperate Seagulls this Premier League season.
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The Blades and Seagulls drew 1-1 before Christmas, one of just seven non-losses for United this season.
And so it goes that Brighton remains very much in the mix to be relegated, sitting on 34 points with five matches to play. Eighteenth-place Fulham has 27 points through 33 matches as well.
Three things we learned from Sheffield United – Brighton
1. Could Brighton really blow this? There are few people outside of Crystal Palace (and perhaps now Sheffield United) who believe that the Seagulls are a relegation-quality side but Brighton has not been able to get any bounces this year and refuses to build on big results. Brighton smashed Newcastle a few weeks back to essentially ensure safety and instead has scored one goal in four outings: losses to Man United and Blades plus draws with Everton and Chelsea. That’s not exactly the world’s easiest run of opponents but here they are: one of three teams still fearing the drop.
2. Blades of old flash through the mind: No would’ve mistaken this unit for the one that threatened European qualification last season, but the way that Sheffield United’s beleaguered players raced after loose balls and pushed forward despite an almost certain fate as the 20th-placed team this season will provide hope to a club that knows how much it’s missed Sander Berge (and knows that prized signing and young PL flop Rhian Brewster’s had much better success in the Championship).
3. Brighton subs make their case: Jose Izquierdo looked pretty bright in a feel-good cameo after a long injury absence, while Alireza Jahanbakhsh made an intriguing case to boss Graham Potter for more minutes. The Iranian nearly set up an equalizer and had only managed 16 minutes since returning from his second injury absence two months and eight games ago.
Man of the Match: David McGoldrick
With 10-of-18 duels won, most of them coming after his goal, the Irish forward deserves the honor.
Sheffield United – Brighton recap
Bissouma cued up a Neal Maupay chance that could’ve put the Seagulls ahead but it was Sheffield United who’d go ahead through McGoldrick.
The Republic of Ireland striker led a rush, then collected a loose ball and plugged it into the goal for a 17th-minute lead.
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Brighton thought it was 1-1 when Jakub Moder was at the back post to clean up a loose ball off a corner kick, but he started the play in an offside position and the deadlock was short-lived.
Maupay put a ball over the goal in the 72nd minute off a hard feed from Jahanbakhsh, while Aaron Ramsdale made a splendid, full-extension save in the 85th minute.
And so Blades sealed the first win for interim boss Paul Heckingbottom, a nice moment in a brutal season.