Albion dig deep to claim second Premier League win of the season
Tomer Hemed grabs second-half winner
Israeli striker scores for second successive home game
Seagulls watched by record Amex crowd of 30,468
Second Premier League win lifts Albion to 13th in the table
Tomer Hemed scored for the second successive home game as Brighton & Hove Albion picked up three precious Premier League points against Newcastle United on a raucous afternoon at the Amex.
The striker, who had netted in Albion’s 3-1 win over West Brom at home last time out, struck from close range in the 50th minute from a well-worked free kick.
Albion had to work hard to protect their hard-earned advantage in a frantic last ten minutes but a diligent defensive performance earned its reward.
The hosts had made one change to the side beaten by Bournemouth in their last Premier League encounter. Skipper Bruno returned after injury with Liam Rosenior dropping to the bench. Newcastle, who had won their last three in the league, were unchanged.
The two promoted sides went at it hammer and tongs from the off with the wide men in both teams prominent and chances galore created.
Mathew Ryan was forced to save at his near post as early as the second minute to block a drive from the impressive Mikel Merino but Albion soon got into their stride.
Pascal Gross’s left-wing cross was met by Hemed who headed over before he then tested Rob Elliot with a shot from 20 yards.
Albion should have gone ahead in the 12th minute. Anthony Knockaert’s pass put Solly March away down the left. His cross found Gross but the German’s goalbound volley hit Hemed on the goal-line and Newcastle somehow cleared.
Elliot made another good stop, this time from March, during an opening 20 minutes played at an unrelenting tempo.
Newcastle had threats in wide areas of their own, particularly the lively Christian Atsu down the left. He combined with Chancel Mbemba to create a chance for Ayoze Perez which flew over, while a rare slip by Lewis Dunk should have been punished by Joselu, but he failed to test Ryan from seven yards.
The tempo dropped towards the end of the first half but both sides would have gone into the break feeling they should have been ahead.
Five minutes into the second half and Albion were in front. Knockaert swung a free kick towards the far post where Dale Stephens had found a yard of space to head into the six-yard box for Hemed who swivelled to volley past a helpless Elliot. It was a goal from a set-piece straight off the training pitch.
Only Elliot’s stunning reactions prevented March from scoring again in the 56th minute when he diverted Bruno’s driven cross goalwards only for the keeper to somehow recover his ground and clear the ball off the line.
Shane Duffy made an important interception to deflect Merino’s shot for a corner before Newcastle made a double change with Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle coming on as they hunted for the equaliser. Shelvey then hit a post direct from a corner and also lifted a free kick over the bar, after Duffy had fouled Perez and picked up a yellow card as a result.
In the closing stages Albion adopted a policy of protecting what they had. Atsu had a sight of goal with ten minutes remaining but volleyed weakly wide on the angle before Jamie Murphy replaced Knockaert.
It was all hands to the pump late on. Dunk and Duffy both made important blocks while Ryan saved from Gayle and Jamaal Lascelles, neither of which seriously threatened the Australian keeper. Bruno then made an important headed clearance deep into stoppage time.
Moments later Albion could celebrate - and the roar of relief around the Amex would probably have been heard in Newcastle.
Brighton & Hove Albion (4-4-1-1): Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner; Knockaert (Murphy 81), Propper, Stephens, March; Gross; Hemed. Unused subs: Krul, Huenemeier, Izquierdo, Schelotto, Rosenior, Brown.
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Elliot; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba (Gamez 82); Hayden (Shelvey 68), Merino; Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Joselu (Gayle 71). Unused subs: Darlow, Murphy, Diame, Manquillo.
Attendance: 30,468 (2,958 Newcastle United)
Man of the match: Tomer Hemed