Glenn Murray continued his personal assault on the Hammers, scoring the opener 25 minutes as Brighton & Hove Albion topped West Ham 1-0 at Falmer Stadium on Friday. Murray’s goal marked his sixth score on West Ham in his last five Premier League matches against the club.
West Ham had lost all three previous visits to Falmer Stadium in top-flight play, and Friday was more of the same as they were frustrated by the hosts’ solid defensive organization and put under pressure by the counter-attack.
As both teams began to feel the opponent out and build their way into the match, West Ham looked the more dangerous side early on. However, there was little action on goal through the opening 20 minutes, with just one shot on target combined between the two sides. That would change 25 minutes in, as Brighton struck first. A fabulous run down the left by Beram Kayal saw his cross land perfectly at the foot of Murray, who had snuck in between the central defenders and was virtually unmarked.
That was the only real moment through the rest of the first half, and into the second half West Ham began to push for an equalizer. Felipe Anderson delivered a dangerous cross into the area on 55 minutes, but it was deflected out for a corner. Three minutes later, the Hammers came close on another corner as Fabian Balbuena just couldn’t get his head to the in-swinger.
With the visitors unable to make their mark on the scoresheet, Brighton slowly regained the ascendency. With two minutes left in regulation, Brighton appeared to have a second as a shot from Jose Izquierdo was parried by Lukasz Fabianski right into the path of Jurgen Locadia, but the flag went up. Replays showed the decision was extremely tight, and could have been given in Brighton’s favor had VAR been in play.
The ending was chaotic. In the first minute of stoppage time, Marko Arnautovic blasted one over the Brighton bar on a cut-back from Lucas Perez. West Ham pressured the Brighton back line as the game wound down, but the home defensive unit held strong to keep the Hammers from troubling Matthew Ryan.
The victory pushed Brighton up to 12th in the Premier League table with eight points, while West Ham drops to 15th as Brighton leaps them with all three points.
Southampton nearly earned its second win of the season, but visiting Brighton & Hove Albion erased a two-goal deficit to earn a point as the teams shared the points at St. Mary’s on Monday. Piere-Emil Hojbjerg’s howitzer put Southampton in front past the half-hour mark, and Danny Ings buried a penalty to double the home lead. However, Shane Duffy headed home to put Brighton on the board just moments after Southampton’s second, and Glenn Murray scored from the spot as regulation expired to draw back level.
The teams went back and forth in the opening 20 minutes, but only one shot on target was produced. Southampton had the best early opportunity on 21 minutes, as a corner swung into the danger area and somehow stayed out of the back of the net. Danny Ings’ effort was the most egregious, fired on goal from point-blank range but blocked before it even reached the goalkeeper.
Southampton would finally make good on its attacking presence in the 35th minute and go in front at home. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg picked up the ball 10 yards outside the top-right corner of the penalty area and blasted a shot that knuckled through the legs of Brighton’s Yves Bissouma and past Matthew Ryan for the game’s first goal.
The home side was buoyed by the lead, pressuring the Brighton defense for more and earning nine shots (three on target) to Brighton’s two (none on target) by halftime. After the break, the visitors seemed more intent to go forward. Anthony Knockaert forced a big save from Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, and the visitors their first corner in the 52nd minute, although it came to nothing.
Despite the Seagulls’ bright start to the second half, Southampton nearly doubled its lead as a brilliant long ball over the top from Shane Duffy sprung Shane Long, but the Saints striker put his effort wide with Ryan charging out of his net to contest. The Saints would eventually go up 2-0 after Ings drove into the penalty area and was cut down by Gaetan Bong, a clear penalty. Ings stepped up and buried the spot-kick to put Southampton through.
Brighton wasn’t phased, and they struck right back on 66 minutes. It came off a set-piece, with a free-kick delivered from the right of the box and Shane Duffy headed it home. The Seagulls pressed hard for an equalizer and put Southampton under pressure through the final 15 minutes. Knockaert had a shot from close range deflected past the post, while Bong sent in a cross from the left that was cleared just before reaching substitute Jurgen Locadia. Brighton nearly had an equalizer as Locadia got his head to a corner near the end of regulation that was saved well by McCarthy, but the Seagulls would get their second on the ensuing corner.
As the ball swung in, James Ward-Prowse shoved down Duffy, earning the spot-kick. Glenn Murray sent his effort straight down the middle past McCarthy for the equalizer in the first minute of added time.
Southampton nearly grabbed a winner on a free-kick down the other end, but Ryan produced a fabulous diving save to keep out Ryan Bertrand‘s curling effort. The final whistle confirmed Brighton’s second two-goal comeback in two weeks, having done the same last weekend against Fulham. With the points shared, both sides move to five points on the season through five matches, leaving both teams at their current places of 13th and 14th behind a trio of teams on six.
The glitz and glamor has worn off, the celebrations are over, the bright lights are no longer blinding. Brighton & Hove Albion is an established Premier League club.
The Seagulls navigated the club’s first-ever Premier League season with pragmatism, organization, and occasionally style, avoiding relegation by a somewhat comfortable seven points. Now, the goal becomes avoiding a sophomore slump.
Somewhat active in the transfer market this summer, manager Chris Hughton has the tall task of weighing new, higher expectations brought on by last season’s mild success with the reality of the situation: Brighton & Hove Albion’s goal is still to remain a Premier League competitor. Avoiding relegation is ultimately the goal, and like it was this past year, anything else is bonus. Still, having proven they can do the job once has undoubtedly added a little extra spice to the regularly scheduled dose of pressure, with supporters likely expecting not just Premier League safety, but also tangible improvement, something Hughton will have to handle.
Brighton will finish top ten because….their defense was stellar last season, and not only kept them up but kept them in almost every game. Brighton conceded 54 goals last season in 38 games, less than anyone else in the bottom half of the table. The team warded off suitors for Lewis Dunk, a decision which proved smart. His central defensive partner is a full international in Shane Duffy. Both are 25 years old. If they can use the new signings to bolster the attack effectively, this is a team that has the potential to make some noise.
Brighton will be relegated because…they simply can’t score. They scored just 34 goals last season, and were shut out a whopping 17 times. To fix this problem, Brighton has spent nearly $70 million this summer, but have gone with quantity over quality, not spending more than $22 million on any one player. That man was Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has just one good season under his belt at AZ Alkmaar. They signed Jurgen Locadia back in January from PSV Eindhoven, and despite plenty of aplomb, he managed just a single goal. It’s a work in progress, but if the attack doesn’t improve, Brighton is in trouble.
Best possible XI:
Transfers In: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar, $22.3 million), Yves Bissouma (Lille, $19.8 million), Bernardo (RB Leipzig, $11 million), Florin Andone (Deportivo la Coruna, $7 million), David Button (Fulham, $5.2 million), Percy Tau ($3.8 million).
There’s still a lot to be determined here, most of which falls in the lap of Jahanbakhsh. If he can repeat last season with AZ Alkmaar, Brighton will have one of the best value buys of the entire summer. If he falls flat, there’s little else to provide this attack with any type of spark, leaving them toothless once again. Also, Bissouma is a midfield destroyer who could boost the team’s cover for the back line and begin moving possession forward, and if he performs well and earns a starting spot, Brighton will not just have one of the strong midfields of the lower-table sides, but also a great asset on their hands, with Bissouma at just 21 years old. The C+ grade comes with lots of question marks, but plenty of potential as well.
Star player: This is a loaded question, as nobody truly stands out on this squad at the moment. Jurgen Locadia was meant to be that star when he was brought in last winter, but has since fallen flat. He still has that chance, but the slow start has not been terribly endearing. Jahanbakhsh also has a shot to be the guy, but he’s making a significant step up in competition. At the moment, Brighton’s incumbent star is Pascal Gross, a midfielder who flew under the Premier League radar last season but scored seven goals and was often Brighton’s biggest threat moving forward, even starting as a pseudo-striker down the stretch of the season.
Coach’s Corner: Chris Hughton is potentially the Premier League’s most underrated managers. He finished 11th with a thin Norwich City squad back in 2012/13, although they limped to relegation the next. He has built a sustainable ship at Brighton, but this coming season will be critical to their long-term health. While managers like David Wagner and Sean Dyche are constantly praised for the performances they give at clubs of lesser stature, Hughton’s job at Brighton – a team that had never made the top flight before last season – is one that never gets the credit it deserves.
PST Predicts: Sophomore seasons for newly promoted clubs are ones even more impossible to predict than their first. After securing safety in the first season up, many fans expect marketable improvement over the previous campaign, adding pressure to the players and coaches. Nobody wants to fall back, but still the goal should be the same. As long as the team realizes the bar is still league safety, they will be ok. Any added pressure could cause the team to fall apart. We’ll say Brighton stays up, but barely, with a 17th placed finish. There are worse teams than this perusing the Premier League, and that should be enough to keep them afloa-.
Brighton potentially sets transfer record with Bissouma signing
Brighton & Hove Albion has secured the signing of Lille midfielder Yves Bissouma, the club confirmed on Tuesday.
According to some reports, the transfer could potentially become the club record signing, set back in January with the signing of striker Jurgen Locadia. The Mirror states that the deal, with add-ons, could reach as high as $22.3 million, with Locadia’s record currently sitting at $18 million. However, the BBC is reporting that the Bissouma deal will fall just short of Locadia’s record.
Bissouma, a 21-year-old, already has 13 caps for Mali on the senior international level, with three goals. He made 24 Ligue 1 appearances for Lille last season, scoring two goals and assisting one other, and grabbed another goal in Coupe de France play.
“It’s the dream of every player to come and play in the Premier League. They said it’s different to Ligue 1 – but you see that on the TV. [The players I spoke to] said it’s quite physical, quite difficult but it’s the best league in the world, that says it all. To be a big player you have to prove yourself in the big leagues and that is what pushed me a bit to come here.”
Bissouma becomes Brighton’s sixth signing of the season, with Fulham goalkeeper David Button coming in on Monday. They also snagged RB Leipzig full-back Bernardo and striker Florin Andone from Deportivo la Coruna.
Crystal Palace beat Brighton 3-2 at Selhurst Park on Saturday in an enthralling M23 derby with massive implications on the relegation battle.
Palace went 2-0 up early as Wilfried Zaha and James Tomkins scored, but Glenn Murray made it 2-1 then Zaha made it 3-1 in a wild opening. Jose Izquierdo then made it 3-2 before half time as the goals flew in amid flares being let off in an incredible atmosphere in south London.
With the win Palace move six points above the bottom three with four games to go, while Brighton slip back into the relegation scrap with plenty of tough games coming up and are just a point above Palace.