- Albion’s under-23s are beaten 2-1 by Everton
- Nathangelo Markelo and Josh Bowler strike for the Toffees
- Aaron Connolly replies with his 12th goal of the season
- The Seagulls remain third in the Premier League 2 Division 1
Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-23s were denied top spot in the Premier League 2 Division 1 as they narrowly lost 2-1 against high-flying Everton at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre.
Goals from Nathangelo Markelo and Josh Bowler gave the visitors a two-goal lead on the south coast, and despite Aaron Connolly’s 12th goal of the season, the Seagulls were unable to avoid defeat.
Despite putting Everton on the back-foot, the visitors took the lead on 14 minutes in unusual fashion, as Markelo closed down Hugo Keto and blocked the goalkeeper’s clearance, which sent the ball trickling over the goal line.
Mathias Normann went in search of an equaliser up the other end, as he shifted the ball onto his left foot and drilled towards goal, but the Norwegian’s fierce effort was bravely blocked by an Everton defender.
Shortly after the hour mark a free-flowing Albion move ended with George Cox being taken down on the fringes of the penalty area — but despite a few appeals the referee awarded a free-kick instead of pointing to the spot.
The resulting set-piece was played short to Anders Dreyer on the edge of the 18-yard box, but the Dane’s powerful, goal-bound effort took a deflection and dropped just wide of the target.
Connolly’s prodded effort at the front post was then smothered by Toffees shot-stopper Joe Hilton, before Cox had another strong penalty appeal turned down after an opposing defender tugged his shirt.
The Seagulls returned for the second half and Gyokeres went closest to levelling the contest, but the Swede’s curling effort from Dreyer’s weighted pass into the box was tipped over.
An Albion corner then fell invitingly for Ben White at the back post, but the defender was unable to anticipate the ball travelling through a crowd of bodies and Hilton was there to sweep up.
Simon Rusk introduced the fresh legs of Jordan Davies midway through the second half, and Gyokeres soon followed up with another attempt for his team, but saw his angled drive gathered at the near post.
Normann came agonisingly close to gaining the reward for his team’s pressure, but after unleashing a fierce shot on goal from 20 yards, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar and the visitors managed to clear.
A moment of quality was required in the closing stages but unfortunately for the Seagulls it was their Merseyside opponents who produced it, as Bowler picked out the top corner with a curling effort on 86 minutes to extend the lead.
Albion flooded the penalty area in the final moments and Connolly benefited from Hilton spilling the ball to simply halve the deficit from a matter of yards, but it proved too late for the Seagulls, who tasted league defeat for only the second time this season.
ALBION: Keto; White, Barclay, O’Hora (A.Davies 76), Suttner; Dreyer (J.Davies 68), Normann, Sanders, Cox (Tilley 84); Connolly, Gyokeres.
Subs not used: Collings (GK), Cochrane.