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NICK SZCZEPANIK'S PRESS VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON

31 March 2019

Paul Hazlewood
Nick Szczepanik reviews the media's coverage of Saturday's game.

Press reports of Albion’s past three games have made for enjoyable reading, but there was precious little to cheer Seagulls fans in the media’s verdicts on the home defeat by Southampton. So let’s get through it, get over it and hope for better news from Chelsea on Wednesday.

The consensus was that Chris Hughton’s men showed nowhere near enough intensity or urgency until Saints took the lead. More than one writer suggested that the players were half asleep for the opening hour.

Tom Prentki in the Sunday Telegraph, for example. He wrote: “The pressing that has seen [Ralph] Hasenhüttl likened to Jürgen Klopp paid dividends eight minutes after the break.

“It was a goal started and finished by Hojbjerg who intercepted in midfield, Armstrong fed Redmond and he raced into the area before nudging the ball back into Hojbjerg’s path and the Dane poked it beyond Ryan.

“That woke the Seagulls from their slumber with the home fans growing increasingly impatient.

“Anthony Knockaert attempted to seize control just as he had against Crystal Palace but this time his swerving shot when the wrong side of the post.

“Back came Southampton and Brighton had Dunk to thank for blocking Ryan Bertrand’s low shot with Ryan beaten.”

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Kieran Gill, in the Mail on Sunday, put it slightly more strongly.

“Brighton looked like a side who figure they are already as good as safe, even though they are far from it,” he wrote.

“They have an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium to follow on Saturday and were largely passengers here.

“Only once they were trailing 1-0 in the closing stages did the sleepwalking Seagulls finally wake up but Southampton held on to secure a win that could prove pivotal come May.

“With 52 minutes on the clock, Brighton gave possession away again, this time through Yves Bissouma in midfield, and it proved costly.

“Redmond charged for goal and slid a pass into the path of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who dinked the ball over Ryan for 1-0. The away end erupted.

“Then, with 20 minutes remaining, Brighton woke up. Montoya smacked a shot against the crossbar from close to 25 yards while Gunn stayed stood still like a statue.

“The goalkeeper then had a moment to forget when he came to collect a cross but spilled it. Davy Propper had a goalkeeper-less goal in front of him but fell under pressure from Hojbjerg. Brighton supporters screamed for a penalty but referee Michael Oliver gave nothing.

“In stoppage time, Gunn caught a cross and Hasenhuttl started his celebrations, which included briefly turning into a cheerleader as he led the travelling supporters in their chants.

“With a face like thunder, Hughton walked down the tunnel. Brighton are still in a fight for survival, but did not act like they knew it here.”

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Jordan Davies, in The Sun, wrote that “for Brighton, it appears to be a huge chance wasted – Chris Hughton’s side missing the chance to go six points clear of Southampton with eight games remaining.”

Paul Doyle of The Observer observed that “Brighton, in addition to figuring out a way to get past Manchester City in next Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final, must be wary of slipping into the bottom three.

“’They were the better team in the first half,’ said Hughton, who must have been relieved to have his team come in level.

“Brighton did not come out any more dynamic or inspired and Southampton did not stop pestering them. So it was no shock when the visitors took the lead in the 53rd minute.

“’Unfortunately it took the goal against us to turn our fortunes around with regard to our level of performance,’ said Hughton.

“Brighton needed to perk up, but instead Southampton caused more alarm with a flowing attack just before the hour, Dunk having to make a panicked clearance off the line.

“Not until the last 20 minutes did Brighton show any teeth.”

At that point, wrote Ed Elliott of the Press Association, reporting for The Independent: “Brighton were inches away from an equaliser in the 72nd minute when Spaniard Montoya, whose last goal came for Valencia in January 2017, rattled the woodwork from the edge of the box.”

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Mantej Mann on the BBC Sport website, wrote that:

“For 53 minutes, Brighton seemed content to settle for a point as they struggled to find any attacking rhythm.

“But having gone behind, Chris Hughton's side began to push forward and ask more questions of their visitors, producing nine shots in search of the equaliser.

“Dunk found himself unmarked inside the Southampton area from a free-kick but could only head over the bar.”

On to Stamford Bridge …


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