- Albion are narrowly beaten 1-0 at Goodison Park
- Josh Bowler fires the winning goal for the Toffees
- Viktor Gyokeres slips to miss second-half penalty
- Everton win the Premier League 2 Division 1 title
Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-23s saw their title hopes extinguished at Everton tonight, as luck deserted them on a night when they had to win to keep alive realistic hopes of winning the Premier League 2 Division 1 in their debut season.
Everton won it thanks to Josh Bowler’s individual goal midway through the first half, but Albion had their chances on the night, including a late penalty, missed by Viktor Gyokeres, as luck deserted him, as he slipped as he stepped up to take the kick.
The permutations before kick-off were simple for Everton, who were three points and five goals better off than Albion going into both club’s penultimate match of the season.
A win and the Toffees would clinch the championship, draw and they’d be all but there, but victory for Simon Rusk’s side would really put things in the balance ahead of the final day, when Albion would be at home to Chelsea, and Everton at West Ham United.
In a game that saw both sides on the front foot from the off, a healthy turnout at Goodison were treated to an entertaining encounter.
Albion’s first chance of note was a left-footed free kick by Jordan Davies from 20 yards out, that whistled just over the top of the Everton goal; while at the other end, Basala Sambou’s firm header was straight at a grateful Robert Sanchez.
Everton opened the scoring as Bowler showed a moment of opportunism, driving inside from a position on the left, he saw an opening and threaded a clever left-footed strike past the diving Sanchez and into the opposite bottom corner of the net.
Albion responded well to the setback, and both Gyokeres and Bojan Radulovic both went close in quick succession.
First Gyokeres saw his close range shot deflected behind for a corner, then from the resulting kick, Radulovic rose above the Everton defence to win a powerful downward header, but Fraser Hornby was on the line to smash the ball clear.
Midfielder Davies limped out of the action after 37 minutes, with Soufyan Ahannach on in his place.
Everton emerged for the second half with the same purpose they showed from the start, and Bowler saw another shot from distance deflected behind for a corner — but Albion were not here just to make up the numbers.
Gyokeres’s dangerous low cross gave Everton a scare as Brendan Galloway scooped the ball over his own goal, with Ahannach waiting to pounce. Leo Ostigard was first to two corners that followed, his first header deflected behind, and the second sailed over the top.
The Norwegian defender was then in action in his own penalty area as he did really well to block Bowler’s shot, when he looked certain to double Everton’s lead; as did Nathan Broadhead, when he got in behind Albion’s back line, but Sanchez got his angles right, to slow down the shot, and Archie Davies recovered to clear, as the ball trickled towards an empty net.
With just over 20 minutes to play, Albion almost levelled. A neat passage of play down the left presented Alex Cochrane with the chance to cut the ball back to Jayson Molumby, breaking from midfield, but the Irish under-21 international’s side-footed shot, into the turf, bounced up and wide of the left post.
Albion were awarded a penalty with eight minutes left to play, as Lewis Gibson upended Max Sanders in the box. Gyokeres stepped up, but slipped as he planted his standing foot and the ball spun wide of the goal, much to the delight and relief of the home crowd.
Everton hung on, and the final whistle was greeted by a roar of relief from the Goodison crowd, and while Rusk and his players left the pitch with the Toffees beginning their celebrations, Albion’s under-23s can reflect upon an outstanding first season at this level.
ALBION: Sanchez; A.Davies, Ostigard, O’Hora, Cochrane; Collar, Molumby; J.Davies (Ahannach 36), Gyokeres, Sanders; Radulovic (Alzate 66).
Subs not used: Collings (GK), Moore, Hall.