REPORT: ASTON VILLA 1 ALBION 1
- Brighton draw to finish second in the Sky Bet Championship
- Glenn Murray converts from penalty spot
- Nathan Baker receives a red card for foul on Sam Baldock inside the box
- Jack Grealish scores late leveller to deny the Seagulls the title
Brighton & Hove Albion conceded a late goal to miss out on winning the Sky Bet Championship title, as they drew 1-1 with Aston Villa on the final day of the season.
Glenn Murray gave the Seagulls the lead from the penalty spot, after Nathan Baker received a straight red card, but the ten men of Villa hit back in the dying stages through Jack Grealish.
Chris Hughton made five changes to the starting line-up for Albion’s final game of the season, with Fikayo Tomori replacing Uwe Huenemeier, while Baldock returned after seven games out injured.
Henri Lansbury created the first opportunity of the game, as he fired towards goal from 30 yards out, but Albion goalkeeper David Stockdale made a textbook save to his left-hand side.
Lansbury then pounced on Sebastien Pocognoli’s hesitant chested pass inside the box, but with just Stockdale to beat from a couple of yards out, the midfielder headed narrowly wide.
Anthony Knockaert then won a free-kick out wide and whipped the delivery into the box, however Steve Sidwell’s glancing header flashed wide of the target.
Albion’s next chance fell to Sidwell again, as he raced into the box and met Bruno’s cross to the back post, but this time the midfielder’s header dropped over the crossbar.
Pocognoli put the visitors under pressure when his backpass fell straight to Villa striker Scott Hogan, but Stockdale came to the rescue with an important save low down.
Baldock was then sent racing through on goal, as he latched onto Knockaert’s defence-splitting pass, however the Albion striker was unable to hit the target as he lashed over from a tight angle.
Stockdale was called into action moments before half-time, as he darted across his goal to push Conor Hourihane’s 25-yard free-kick around the post, to ensure the teams went in level at the break.
A last-ditch tackle by Lewis Dunk denied substitute Keinan Davis after the break, before the striker’s close-range effort rose over the crossbar from the resulting corner.
Stockdale then made comfortable saves to keep out long-range attempts by Leandro Bacuna and Hourihane, moments before Murray glanced a header agonisingly wide from Jamie Murphy’s inswinging cross.
After close control from Baldock inside the area, which allowed him to get free and fire towards goal, Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone did well to keep out the striker’s powerful right-footed effort from a tight angle.
But on 64 minutes, the game swung in Albion’s favour when Baldock was tripped inside the box by Baker, leaving referee Darren Bond to point to the penalty spot and show the Villa defender his marching orders.
Murray took responsibility from the penalty spot and rolled the ball past Johnstone into the bottom corner, giving the Seagulls the lead while Newcastle United were winning 2-0 at St James’ Park.
A matter of minutes later, Murray intercepted a backpass and rolled the ball back for an onrushing Baldock, but the striker was unable to make a firm connection in front of goal.
Substitute Solly March went close with a low-driven effort from 25 yards, before Sidwell headed wide of the target from Dale Stephens’s delivery to the back post.
Johnstone then saved well from Bruno’s right-footed strike inside the box, shortly before James Bree’s long-range attempt was deflected narrowly wide of Stockdale’s left-hand upright.
Stockdale protected Albion’s slender lead with a fantastic save at full stretch from another dangerous Hourihane free-kick.
But with just one minute remaining on the clock, disaster struck for the Seagulls when Grealish’s long-range effort found its way through a crowd of bodies inside the box to level the scoreline.
Albion pushed for a late winner, however time ran out, meaning Newcastle finished as champions and the Seagulls reached the Premier League in second place.