So much happened elsewhere on an eventful final day of the 2019-20 Premier League season that it would not have been a surprise to find the reports of Albion’s 2-1 win away to Burnley in the national press reduced to a couple of hundred words. After all, neither relegation nor European qualification rested on the Seagulls’ visit to Turf Moor.
But in the event the club’s climb up to 15th place drew praise from most reporters, with the quality of the two goals almost universally acknowledged. And former Sun man Mike McGrath, now with the Daily Telegraph, noted that “Graham Potter secured Brighton’s biggest points haul since promotion to the Premier League following Aaron Connolly’s winner at Turf Moor.
“Potter, appointed a year ago following Chris Hughton’s surprise departure, finished his first campaign in charge by going unbeaten in the final three matches, safely above the relegation zone before kick-off. His team’s 41 points bettered Hughton’s from two years ago, moving them up to 15th in the table.
“Before Connolly’s winner, Yves Bissouma had opened the scoring with a spectacular long-range strike, with Chris Wood levelling before the interval. The Mali midfielder had just won a slide tackle when Wood’s scuffed clearance fell to him 30 yards from goal. He took a touch and curled into the top corner of Pope’s net for his first Premier League goal.
“Kevin Long looked the favourite to clear but Connolly danced around his Republic of Ireland team-mate before curling his low finish into the net.”
Aaron Bower of The Guardian wrote that “Bissouma’s fantastic effort from long range gave Nick Pope no chance, and with Ederson keeping a clean sheet for Manchester City against Norwich, Bissouma’s strike ultimately denied the England international a 16th clean sheet of the season, plus the opportunity to share the golden gloves award with the Brazilian.
“Burnley equalised a minute before half-time when a superb ball from Erik Pieters enabled Chris Wood to score his 14th of the season, but much like in the first half, it was the visitors who started the second period the stronger.
“Connolly should have done better when he fired straight at Pope from close range, but the Ireland international made no mistake two minutes later when he outmuscled Kevin Long before curling his well-placed effort past Pope to put Brighton ahead again.”
Ian Parker’s report for the Press Association found its way onto a number of websites, including The Independent. He wrote that “Brighton, who moved up to 15th with the win, will go into the shortened off-season taking encouragement from a positive display as they posed a regular threat on the counter-attack and looked capable of scoring more.
“The Clarets could only half clear a corner and the ball came out to the Mali international, who took time to pick his spot before curling an effort into the top left-hand corner.
“Brighton tails were up, and they almost doubled the lead moments later when Neal Maupay headed Tariq Lamptey’s cross on to the crossbar. Burnley were struggling to deal with Lamptey’s pace, and the right-back next set up Alexis Mac Allister, who should have done better than shoot straight at Pope from a central position.
“But they would let Burnley back into it before the break, with Wood getting free of Lewis Dunk to control a long ball forward from Erik Pieters before tucking the ball inside the far post.
“Brighton, however, needed only five minutes of the second half to get back in front. Maupay kept the ball in play – just – to poke a pass down the line for Connolly, who beat Kevin Long for pace as he cut inside from the left and fired inside the far post.”
Needless to say, some northern-based reporters had their own parochial agendas. Ian Whittell’s report in The Times concentrated almost entirely on the Clarets and whether their levels of financial investment can match the ambition of manager Sean Dyche.
Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail noted that “this defeat, uncharacteristic in its design, actually cost [Burnley] around £2million” – omitting to mention that the Albion’s rise up the table had benefitted Graham Potter’s men by precisely the same amount in Premier League prize money.
But he at least he mentioned the match and admitted that “Brighton were too smart against heavy legs. It will be of absolutely no consolation to Nick Pope, but the goal that deprived him of what would have been a richly deserved Golden Glove award was sumptuous.
“Manchester City's Ederson was the recipient [of the award] yet cannot have come up against a moment of this quality on Sunday. Yves Bissouma manufactured it, preying on lax Burnley defending, and bending an effort far into Pope's top right-hand corner. Not even a man of his frame could thwart it, Bissouma celebrating his first Premier League strike.”
Chris Boden, the knowledgeable local man from the Burnley Express wrote that “the Clarets were twice denied by remarkable Brighton defending as first Dunk made a superb block to prevent a certain goal from Long from James Tarkowski’s knockdown, then Wood headed on the corner, and Adam Webster headed against [Dale] Stephens and over.”
The theme of Albion’s solidity at the back was taken up by Saj Chowdhury on the BBC Sport website. “Brighton's style of play may have changed under manager Graham Potter, but one thing that has remained constant from the Chris Hughton era is the miserly defence,” he wrote.
“In fact, Potter has made them a tighter outfit, conceding 1.42 goals per game this season compared to 1.57 in 2018-19 when they also finished just above the drop zone. Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy were the mainstays in central defence back then, but this season it has been Dunk and £20m signing Adam Webster.
“Both acted as barricades on Sunday, repelling Burnley's physical attack and aerial assaults. Dunk was particularly outstanding and made a superb block to deny Kevin Long. With centre-back Ben White set to return to the south coast from a very successful loan spell at Leeds, expect Brighton to be even tougher to break down next season.
“As for the attack, which is not as widely hailed, it caused Burnley plenty of consternation in the opening half. Bissouma's strike was the standout moment, but both Maupay and Connolly excelled.”