- Albion secure Premier League safety
- De Gea denies Murray, Izquierdo and Gross in first half
- Gross nets seventh of the season in the second period
- Manchester City up next for Albion on Wednesday night
Brighton & Hove Albion secured Premier League safety with an outstanding 1-0 win against Manchester United on Friday night at the Amex Stadium.
A second-half header from Player of the Season Pascal Gross was enough for Albion to defeat second-placed United on an evening when the hosts fully deserved to claim a memorable victory.
Chris Hughton made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 at Burnley at Turf Moor six days previously. Davy Propper and Glenn Murray came back into the side for Beram Kayal and Leonardo Ulloa.
The visitors had the ball in the net in the opening minute but Maroune Fellaini was ruled correctly offside as he flicked Marcus Rashford’s free-kick past Maty Ryan from close range.
There was a terrific atmosphere inside the Amex from the start and as Albion settled into the game they created an opening after eight minutes.
Anthony Knockaert, who was named Man of the Match after a terrific display, and Bruno twice combined out on the right-hand side, and the move ended in Dale Stephens dragging a shot wide from the edge of the area.
Knockaert’s superb slaloming run ended in the midfielder setting up Jose Izquierdo for a shot that was blocked from inside the area as the hosts continued on the front foot, before Pascal Gross saw an effort held by David De Gea.
Murray then drew the United keeper into a world-class stop with 20 minutes on the clock. The striker latched onto Davy Propper’s interception and volleyed powerfully towards goal, but his dipping strike was tipped away by De Gea in the first half’s best chance.
Lewis Dunk superbly headed Marcus Rashford’s dipping volley away from danger when the England forward met the ball sweetly on the edge of the area before De Gea tipped away Izquierdo’s dipping strike over at the other end after the Colombian cut inside in textbook fashion.
Shane Duffy met Gross’s corner from the resulting set-piece, but his header flashed across goal and beyond the outstretched leg of Murray as Albion continued to dominate proceedings.
Knockaert then sent Gross in-behind ten minutes before the break, but De Gea was off his line quickly to thwart the danger.
Despite their first half dominance Hughton’s men couldn’t find a breakthrough and the sides went in level at the interval.
The first meaningful action after the restart saw Murray shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Fellaini, before Ryan easily hell Paul Pogba’s shot from inside the area.
Knockaert then drove at the heart of the opposition defence once more and saw a shot deflected behind off Chris Smalling as the Frenchman tried to get the hosts back into the rhythm they had during the opening period.
Albion got the goal that their performance had deserved in the 57th minute.
Izquierdo raced all the way to the byline, and the midfielder stood the ball up to the far post for Gross to meet the delivery from close range and his shot had enough power to cross the line despite Smalling’s efforts to clear.
Knockaert flew forward again and Murray saw a cross blocked with Izquierdo lurking in the centre before Izquierdo flashed a shot wide from the subsequent corner as the hosts continued in the ascendency.
Gross was shown a yellow card for a foul on Juan Mata as the Spaniard approached the Albion area, before Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard replaced Fellaini and Matteo Darmian as the visitors made two changes.
Ryan held Lingard’s effort as the away side looked for a route back into the contest, and Scott McTominay replaced Marcus Rojo as Jose Mourinho made a final switch for Manchester United.
Kayal replaced Gross with seven minutes to go as the Seagulls and in the closing stages March and Leonardo Ulloa both came on to help shore up the advantage.
Referee Pawson played four minutes of added time and although United pressed the hosts held firm to claim a victory acclaimed ecstatically by the Albion fans on a night to remember at the Amex.
The result secures Premier League football for the Seagulls and Hughton’s men now travel to Manchester City and Liverpool next week to round off a memorable first season at the top level.
Albion line-up: Ryan; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo (March 88); Gross (Kayal 83), Murray (Ulloa 90).
Subs not used: Krul, Schelotto, Goldson, Locadia.
Manchester United line-up: De Gea; Darmian (Shaw 68), Smalling, Rojo (McTominay 76), Young ©; Matic, Fellaini (Lingard 68), Pogba, Mata, Rashford, Martial.
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1ST GOAL TIME 57 MINS