- Albion go top of PL2 Division 1 after impressive away performance
- Viktor Gyokeres smashes home a penalty to take the lead
- Aaron Connolly scores either side of half-time to make it 3-0
- Chelsea rally late on but Simon Rusk’s side hold out
Brighton & Hove Albion's under-23s weathered a late storm to claim a superb 3-2 victory against Chelsea on Saturday afternoon, which sent them to the top of Premier League 2 Division 1.
Viktor Gyokeres opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the opening half, before Aaron Connolly netted shortly before the break to give Albion a commanding lead.
The Irishman increased Albion's advantage with his 11th goal in 13 matches, and despite having to weather a late storm from the hosts, Simon Rusk's side held on for three points.
The home side began brightly, zipping the ball about confidently on the dewy surface in Aldershot. When a clipped through-ball found Martell Taylor-Crossdale – but the striker’s effort was blocked by skipper Ben Barclay.
Neither goalkeeper was tested until Mathias Normann latched onto a loose ball from 18 yards and unleashed a powerful effort to the left of Marcin Bulkin - the Polish shot-stopper parried the midfielder's effort for a corner.
Although the resulting corner bore no fruit, Albion sustained the attack and earned a penalty when Normann was clipped inside the area. Gyokeres assumed responsibility from 12 yards and didn’t disappoint, smashing the ball into the top left corner.
Chelsea responded with intent, targeting the channels as their main route of attack, but George Cox and Owen Moore stood firm against the pressure. Taylor-Crossdale had the best chance of Chelsea’s post-goal flurry, heading onto the woodwork from close range.
But as half-time beckoned, Rusk’s side grabbed hold of the contest with a blitzing counter-attack which left the Chelsea defence at sixes and sevens. After producing a neat backheel to save a corner, Moore thumped the ball upfield and found Gyokeres.
The Swede travelled at pace before threading a pinpoint pass into the path of Connolly, who cheekily slid the ball under Bulka’s legs for his tenth goal of the season.
With Chelsea’s full-backs committing forward from the restart, Albion hassled the flanks and grabbed a third in the 52nd minute. Davies weaved his way into the area and his goal-bound shot was diverted in by Connolly, taking his impressive goal tally to 11.
Playing with due confidence, Albion kept possession well, playing out from the back and stringing together a series of intricate moves. Normann impressed throughout in midfield with his nimble footwork making the Norwegian elusive for most of the game.
The hosts were handed a lifeline in the 72nd minue when the referee pointed to the penalty spot - Billy Gilmour stepped up and drilled the ball low down the middle and rushed back to the centre spot in hope of a comeback.
That hope looked possible two minutes later when substitute Tino Anjorin found space on the left side of the area and fired low into the bottom corner past Hugo Keto’s outstretched hand.
Tails up, it was suddenly the Blues who were exuding confidence going forward. Tariq Lamptey was proving a terror on the right with his speed and balance, and the full-back teed up Gilmour with ten minutes remaining, but the goalscorer could not bag a brace.
With five minutes of added time to come through, Keto was a force between the sticks, first producing an acrobatic save to deny Anjorin from distance and then showing his dominance to claim the testing balls whipped into the box.
Albion came out of added time with the three points intact, though, safe in the knowledge they would sit top of the table for a few hours at least.
ALBION: Keto; Moore, Barclay, O’Hora, Cox; Dreyer, Norman, Sanders, J. Davies (Roberts 87), Gyokeres; Connolly.
Subs not used: Collings, A. Davies, Gwargis, Ljubicic