September In Review: First Team
Brighton & Hove Albion twice recovered from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in a month which included four matches for Chris Hughton’s team, as they picked up points to end September in 15th position in the Premier League. Fulham were the visitors to the Amex Stadium on the opening day of September, and it was Albion’s first meeting with one of this season’s Premier League newcomers. Albion made a bright start to the contest and were presented with a fine chance to break the deadlock on 24 minutes, when Luciano Vietto brought down Glenn Murray inside the penalty area - but Pascal Gross’s spot-kick was saved by Marcus Bettinelli. The Cottagers used the penalty save as motivation to press forward, and the deadlock was broken just two minutes before half-time when Andre Schurrle poked home Jean Michael-Seri’s clever through-ball. The visitors doubled their lead in the 62nd minute when Aleksander Mitrovic beat Maty Ryan at the second time of asking, and Albion looked to be heading for a third league defeat of the season. But just five minutes later, Murray handed his side a lifeline with a composed finish from Anthony Knockaert’s square-pass, and the momentum began to turn in Albion’s favour heading into the closing stages. With just six minutes remaining on the clock, Mitrovic was penalised for handball inside Albion’s box and Hughton’s side were awarded a second spot-kick of the game — Murray stepped up from 12 yards and fired home to clinch a point. The international break passed and Albion returned to action in front of the Sky Sports cameras, when they visited St Mary’s to play Southampton on a Monday evening. Hughton’s side were made to pay for their below-par start in Hampshire, when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg drilled a spectacular effort into the bottom corner from 30 yards to open the scoring. Albion regrouped at half-time and came out for the second half with a better tempo, but Gaetan Bong’s challenge on Danny Ings gave the striker the chance to double his team’s lead from 12 yards, which he did in confident fashion. But just like they did against Fulham, Albion found a quick solution to going two goals behind, and it was Knockaert’s floated free-kick into the penalty area which allowed Shane Duffy to glance a header home to halve the deficit. The Seagulls enjoyed the greater share of possession towards the end of the game and their pressure finally took its toll when Southampton were penalised for an infringement inside the penalty area. Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot and Murray stroked the ball down the middle to beat Alex McCarthy, as he took his goal tally to 98 for the club and celebrated in front of Albion’s excellent travelling support. Albion returned home for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur five days later - live on BT Sport - but Hughton’s side found themselves 2-0 down for a third game in succession. Dale Stephens was withdrawn after just 21 minutes due to injury, but the Seagulls managed to hold their own against the north London club for the majority of the opening half. However, three minutes before the break, Murray blocked Kieran Trippier’s free-kick with his hand inside the penalty area, which allowed Harry Kane to clinically dispatch from 12 yards to put Albion behind. Knockaert has a glorious opportunity in front of the North Stand to level the game, but the Frenchman’s close-range effort was saved, and Albion were made to pay when Erik Lamela broke forward and made it 2-0 in the 76th minute. A late flurry from the Seagulls saw Knockaert pull a goal back in the third minute of added time, and despite having another opportunity moments later, Albion were unable to find an equalising goal and Spurs claimed maximum points. Albion ended the month with arguably the hardest fixture on the Premier League calendar - Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Hughton’s team made a solid start to the game and created chances of their own from set-pieces, but two Shane Duffy headers were unable to beat Ederson in the City goal. The hosts showed their blistering speed on the counter-attack when Knockaert’s pass on the halfway line was intercepted. Leroy Sane raced forward and crossed for Raheem Sterling to lash home from a matter of yards. Solly March delivered a low cross into Knockaert’s feet just before the break and the Frenchman connected sweetly, but Pep Guardiola’s side were able to block the winger’s effort, which proved Albion’s best opportunity of the game. Sergio Aguero got his name on the scoresheet seconds before being withdrawn, as the Argentine evaded challenges before playing a one-two with Sterling and picking out the bottom corner to make it 2-0. Albion had claims for a penalty turned down when the ball appeared to hit Fernandinho on the arm late on, and although the final whistle was blown to seal victory for the hosts, Hughton’s side delivered a respectable display against the Premier League champions.