Albion ended a productive week on a high, with a 4-1 win and a sizzling performance in their latest pre-season game against Portuguese side Estoril.
They also looked the part in their striking new crimson away strip, and scored four fine goals, but head coach Graham Potter will be just as pleased with the emphatic manner his team controlled the match in the Lisbon suburbs.
Neal Maupay showed his eye for goal to set Albion on their way with two nicely taken goals early on, before new faces Kaoru Mitoma and Deniz Undav scored their first goals for the club in a very productive early evening friendly in Portugal.
With temperatures just shy of 30 degrees at kick-off, Graham Potter named a strong side for the game at the Estadio Pina Manique, home to Casa Pia Atletico Clube.
The Albion head coach opted for the 3-5-2 system which served the team so well in the final weeks of last season. Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister, Rob Sanchez and Leandro Trossard all got their first taste of pre-season match action, after a prolonged summer break due to their international exploits during the close season.
Albion made the perfect start, going ahead inside the first minute, when Estoril’s Lorientz Rosier had a moment to forget as the high press paid immediate dividends. Under pressure, the French midfielder played square across his own box, straight into the path of his compatriot Maupay, who accepted the gift, slotting home from close range.
Maupay had his second 12 minutes in - a well-worked goal from Albion - with Marc Cucarella reacting quickest to a loose ball on the left, and delivered a deep cross to the back post. Skipper Lewis Dunk rose to direct his header back across the face of the goal, and Maupay bravely headed his second, and seemingly injuring his finger in the process.
Maupay was almost celebrating a hat-trick inside the first 20 minutes, as a free-flowing move ended with Trossard feeding Maupay in the box, but Estoril keeper Daniel Figueira blocked his shot.
Estoril, who like Albion finished ninth in their domestic league, pulled a goal back following a rare error from Rob Sanchez. The Spain international came out to deal with a speculative long ball, but slipped as he went to clear and the onrushing Rodrigo Martins passed the ball into an empty net to make it 2-1.
Sanchez was quick to redeem himself. Unfazed by his error, he made a smart save from a deflected shot from Arthur Gomes, diving low to his right to push the shot safely behind.
Albion had been impressive in and out of possession, pressing high, despite the heat and moving the ball neatly and incisively to create opportunities, and both Solly March and Danny Welbeck went close.
March’s effort would have been a spectacular goal, as Trossard created space on the left, picked out March with his cross; a ferocious, first-time volley crashed the underside of the bar. Welbeck almost profited as Estoril were unable to clear, but Figueira did enough.
Welbeck was in again, before the interval, with a clever and well placed through ball from Maupay arriving into his path. Figueira made an excellent, instinctive save, as Welbeck tried to lift the ball over him.
Mitoma came on for his first Albion appearance at the start of the the second half, as Potter made four changes at the break. Caicedo, Mac Allister, Sanchez and Trossard were replaced by Adam Lallana, Steve Alzate, Kjell Scherpen and Mitoma.
Figueria made another excellent save early in the second half, as Alzate leapt to get a decent connection on Pascal Gross’s corner and power a header goalwards, but the Estoril keeper was at full stretch to claw the ball away from under the bar.
Seven more changes followed on the hour mark, as Shane Duffy, Matt Clarke, Jan Paul van Hecke, Jeremy Sarmiento, Julio Enciso, Undav and Evan Ferguson replaced the seven starters still on the pitch. Estoril also rang the changes during the second half, but it couldn’t stop Albion increasing their lead.
Settling in very nicely. 🤗 pic.twitter.com/vvTnasxPXC— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) July 16, 2022
Albion’s three new arrivals created the third goal. Undav fed Enciso wide on the right with a neat pass. The Paraguayan took the ball in his stride and beat Tiago Araujo with a flurry of step-overs to reach the byline and find Mitoma, who scored a tap-in for his first for the club.
The industrious Undav deservedly got in on the act, with a fine drive. The former Royale Union Saint-Gilloise striker and Belgian Player of the Season collected a pass from Clarke, worked space and then drilled sweetly into the bottom corner to round off an excellent 90 minutes of work for Albion.
Albion line-up: Sanchez (Scherpen 45), Cucurella (Clarke 60), Dunk (Duffy 60), Maupay (Ferguson 60), Mac Allister (Alzate 45), Trossard (Mitoma 45), Gross (Sarmiento 60), Welbeck (Undav 60), March (Enciso 60), Caicedo (Lallana 45), Veltman (Van Hecke 60).