For Albion fans, the 1-1 draw away to Southampton meant just one thing – almost certain safety and another season in the Premier League. But if they hoped to wake up to headlines proclaiming near success in the fight against the drop they will have been disappointed. For most of the reporters at St Mary’s, the big story was Saints’ Danny Ings becoming only their third top-flight 20-goal man.
An honourable and ironic exception was boyhood Southampton fan Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph. He began his report: “Brighton might have sometimes seemed like the most reluctant of Project Restart participants but, when the moment came, they have actually been among the most ready. Only two points separated them and the relegation zone when matches resumed last month but Graham Potter’s players have responded favourably to being the club with perhaps most to lose and a gritty 1-1 draw here against Southampton will almost certainly guarantee their Premier League status.
“Aston Villa’s failure to beat Everton means that Brighton’s cushion to the bottom three now stands at six points and, with two matches to play and a vastly superior goal difference, they could only now be denied by an extraordinary sequence of results.”
Ben Fisher was in the majority when he opted to lead on Ings in The Guardian. “When Danny Ings is ravenous, he is nigh on impossible to stop,” he wrote. “Ings had a goal disallowed and rattled a post here before netting his 20th league goal of the season to earn Southampton a draw, becoming their first player to reach that landmark since James Beattie in 2003 and keeping alive his chances of winning the Golden Boot. For Brighton, who took the lead through Neal Maupay, this point all but guarantees their top-flight status for another season.
“Ings finished clinically midway through the second half but both teams could have snatched victory through unlikely sources, Yves Bissouma blasting wide after Mat Ryan made a fingertip save to prevent Jannik Vestergaard’s piledriver from finding the top corner.
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“Whereas Brighton appeared reinvigorated after making six changes, Southampton’s introduction of five new faces led to a disjointed and muddled first-half display, which Maupay seized on. Glenn Murray cutely flicked on Tariq Lamptey’s long throw and Maupay punished some slack Southampton defending, darting between Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek to fire home.”
Ex-Sun man Tom Roddy, now with The Times, remarked that Ings’ leveller “stalled Brighton & Hove Albion’s chances of putting their Premier League status beyond doubt after Neal Maupay’s opener.
“Brighton’s answer to Ings is Maupay, the Frenchman whose tenth goal of the season means Brighton are almost safe — six points above the relegation zone with two games to go.
“Brighton had shown the necessary fight in the first half but their goal was a gift. Jannik Vestergaard failed to challenge Glenn Murray from a throw-in, the veteran striker flicking to Maupay, who got between Jan Bednarerk and Hojbjerg to fire past Alex McCarthy. Hasenhuttl bristled on the touchline and made two changes at half-time which had an immediate impact.
“Ings hit a post from the edge of the area but then found the net when Nathan Redmond slipped him in and the striker glided into the box to beat Mat Ryan.
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“They would have had the lead too, had it not been for Ryan’s reflexes six minutes later when Vestergaard’s drive from 30 yards out swerved towards the top corner but the Australian goalkeeper tipped it on to a post.”
The Sun’s south coast man, Tom Barclay, led the meeting of two of the clubs on his patch with a bit of history, writing that “Danny Ings followed in the footsteps of Le God to become Southampton’s modern idol.
“Only Matt Le Tissier and James Beattie had previously netted 20 Premier League goals in a single season for Saints. But Ings took that tally to three with a typically cool finish here to chalk off Neal Maupay’s opener.
“It frustrated Graham Potter, who played with Le Tissier during his single season with Saints back in 1996, given his side are still not mathematically safe. But their far superior goal difference to Aston Villa and Bournemouth means they effectively are thanks to this point.
“The build-up to this game had involved a manager love-in with both bosses falling over themselves to pay tribute to the other. The pally spirit seemed to extend to the pitch too with some of the defensive gifts the two sides offered each other. Southampton were far too hospitable for Maupay’s opener.
“Glenn Murray flicked on Tariq Lamptey’s throw-in to Maupay, who somehow had enough room between Saints’ centre-backs to find the near corner with his left foot. The strike meant Maupay became just the sixth French player to register 10 or more goals in their maiden Premier League season, after Mssrs Lacazette, Martial, Giroud, Henry and Cantona.
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“Maupay, looking a steal at £16million, celebrated by rubbing his eyes in a cry-baby gesture - possibly in reference to his feud with Arsenal bad-boy Matteo Guendouzi.
“The pressure eventually told just before the water break as Nathan Redmond sent away Ings, who finished clinically. Both sides had chances to win it with Yves Bissouma firing wide from close range and Vestergaard having a Vincent Kompany-esque piledriver turned onto the bar. But ultimately it was a draw which should confirm Brighton’s safety - and ensure Ings’ godlike status.”
Daniel Matthews of the Daily Mail considered the ifs and maybes but let the Albion head coach have the last word.
“For a while it seemed Neal Maupay’s early goal had taken the Seagulls to safety,” he wrote. “Now only total collapse will relegate them; one more point is enough. Had Yves Bissouma not missed a glorious chance, the sun loungers would have lay [sic] in wait.
“Had Mat Ryan not tipped Yannik Vestergaard's 35-yard thunderbolt on to the bar, they could have left with nothing.
“'It’s a big point for us, a hard-fought point,' Graham Potter said. 'It takes us a bit closer. We have two games to go and we will still fight for points.”