REPORT: BOURNEMOUTH 3 ALBION 2
Strikers Sam Baldock and Adrian Colunga found their goalscoring touch but it wasn’t enough, as Brighton & Hove Albion were cruelly denied a share of the spoils at high-flying Bournemouth.
An action-packed game at the Goldsands Stadium saw Baldock net his first goal for the club on the hour mark, while Colunga scored for the first time since netting on his debut back in August.
But on an evening where Albion deserved at least a point, they conceded a penalty with 14 minutes remaining, which was despatched by Yann Kermorgant.
Albion certainly turned the form book on its head in the game’s early stages, dominating possession and keeping the hosts pegged back deep into their own half.
The Seagulls created the game’s first opening in the fourth minute, when a sweeping move ended with Gary Gardner slipping in Joe Bennett. The left-back was then brought down on the edge of the box by Matt Ritchie but Gardner’s resulting free-kick was deflected out for a corner by former Seagull Tommy Elphick.
The visitors continued to press but their start was disrupted in the 10th minute when Aaron Hughes landed awkwardly after jumping for the ball and was taken off on a stretcher – Inigo Calderon was his replacement.
Bournemouth’s first chance fell to Ritchie who burst into the box in the 16th minute, but his low shot was well saved by Ali Al-Habsi, making his Albion debut following a loan move from Wigan Athletic.
The hosts then came into the game more with Simon Francis seeing a fierce drive headed away by Gardner.
Cruelly, Albion found themselves a goal down after 25 minutes when Gordon Greer attempted to head a deep Francis cross out to safety but inadvertently sent the ball beyond Al-Habsi.
Yet far from going into their shell, Albion were back on level terms three minutes later when Colunga latched onto Joao Teixeira’s slide-rule pass before rounding Artur Boruc for his first league goal of the campaign.
Bournemouth again took the lead in the 38th minute when a deflected cross looped into the box and Marc Pugh was on hand to volley home on the turn, the ball taking a touch off Lewis Dunk to leave Al-Habsi wrong-footed.
Albion could count themselves unlucky to be behind at the break, with Gardner also volleying wide and Greer glancing a header narrowly over in first-half injury-time.
Dunk thought he had equalised in the 56th minute when he met Jake Forster-Caskey’s free-kick with a powerful header goalwards, but Polish international Boruc somehow scooped the ball away for a corner.
Albion again broke forward and Teixeira was foiled as he honed in on goal, but you sensed an equaliser was coming.
It duly arrived on the hour mark when a long punt from Al-Habsi was flicked on by Greer, and Baldock raced through to send a cool finish past Boruc.
Albion went close to taking the lead in the 65th minute when sub Kazenga LuaLua sent a ball across the face of goal; it eluded Baldock and Forster-Caskey before falling at the feet of Gardner, who blasted over.
Unfortunately for Sami Hyypia’s men the game had a twist in its tail in the 76th minute, when Dunk made contact with Callum Wilson in the box. Referee Keith Stround had no hesitation pointing to the spot and Kermorgant blasted home the spot-kick.
In injury-time, substitute Craig Mackail-Smith narrowly edged Calderon’s cross wide of the post, but the hosts held on for all three points.
ALBION: Al-Habsi (GK); Hughes (Calderon 13), Dunk, Greer, Bennett; Holla, Forster-Caskey, Gardner; Teixeira, Colunga (LuaLua 62), Baldock (Mackail-Smith 73). Subs not used: Walton (GK), Chicksen, Ince, McCourt.