Tariq Lamptey scored his first goal for the club, but Albion slipped to a narrow defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Albion fell behind to a controversial first-half penalty by Harry Kane but levelled 11 minutes into the second half when Lamptey finished off a great move by firing into the bottom corner.
But the equaliser sparked Spurs into life and debutant keeper Robert Sanchez pulled off a brilliant save to prevent Joel Veltman from scoring an own goal and Kane hit the post before substitute Gareth Bale headed the winner – his first goal for Tottenham since May 2013.
The first half was a tale of two penalties – one given and one not.
Albion settled nicely, although Sanchez had to push a shot from Serge Reguilon over the bar before Tottenham’s controversial opener in the 13th minute. Adam Lallana was penalised for backing into Kane and after a VAR check decided that the England captain had part of his foot in the box, referee Graham Scott’s decision to award a free kick was changed to a penalty. Kane swept it confidently past Sanchez.
Albion’s own penalty appeals in the 23rd minute fell on deaf ears. There was certainly contact as Matt Doherty tugged at Leo Trossard, but not enough to convince VAR after a check. But if the visitors felt hard done by there was little evidence in the next 20 minutes or so when they took the game to Tottenham.
Albion won three corners and a couple of free kicks in dangerous positions, but frustratingly failed to test Hugo Lloris. Their best chance came just before the break when Joel Veltman picked out Adam Lallana in the box with a 40-yard pass which the midfielder was frustratingly unable to control. In stoppage time Dan Burn was booked for bringing down Erik Lamela in a dangerous position but the Spurs’ midfielder drove the free kick over the bar.
Albion drew level in the 56th minute with a well-worked goal. Ben White won the ball from Pierre Emile Hojbjerg to find Solly March. He picked out Pascal Gross who slid a great pass into the path of Lamptey, who drilled a low right-footed shot into the bottom corner. It was no surprise to those of an Albion persuasion that there had to be another VAR check and a two-minute delay while the referee looked at the incident on his monitor before giving the goal.
Bernardo replaced March, whose ankle had been caught accidentally by Matt Doherty, in the 64th minute and Albion continued to look the more threatening but they had a let-off midway through the second half. Lamela’s low drive came back off the post and Veltman’s headed clearance appeared to be going into his own net until Sanchez got a brilliant touch to turn it over the bar.
Tottenham upped the ante. Kane hit the post from close range from a corner and they went back in from in the 73rd minute when Bale, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes, scored with his first touch, guiding a header into the bottom corner from Reguilon’s cross after getting in between Webster and Veltman.
Danny Welbeck made his Albion debut a few moments later as Lamptey, who looked to be suffering a hamstring niggle, was replaced by Alexis Mac Allister with 12 minutes to go.
Albion pressed strongly in the closing stages and appealed for another penalty for handball against Eric Dier which was turned down. There were six added minutes but the visitors couldn’t get the equaliser that their efforts deserved.
Sanchez gets his chance
It was a big night for Robert Sanchez, who made his senior debut for Albion and Premier League bow. This time last year the 22-year-old Spaniard was preparing to play at Wrexham for Rochdale in the FA Cup although he is no stranger to big stages, having appeared at Old Trafford for the League One outfit in the Carabao Cup last season.
Sanchez’s appearance was not the only surprise on Albion’s team sheet. Neither top scorer Neal Maupay nor Aaron Connolly were in the matchday 18 with Leo Trossard operating up front. There was a first appearance in the squad for striker Andi Zeqiri while Pascal Gross, whose previous five Premier League appearances have been from the bench, made his first top-flight start since the final game of last season. Gross’s assist was his 16th for Albion in the Premier League, double that of any other Brighton player.
Albion moved top of one league table after Adam Lallana’s early foul on Harry Kane was punished. It is the fourth penalty they have conceded this season, more than any other team in the top-flight.
The line up
Albion: Sanchez, Lamptey (Mac Allister 79), Veltman, Webster ©, Burn, Lallana, Gross, Bissouma, White, March (Bernardo 67), Trossard (Welbeck 74).
Subs: Ryan, Alzate, Propper, Zeqiri, Bernardo.