After successive away victories in which the team scored three, four and then five goals, some highly optimistic fans were hoping for that sequence to continue at the King Power stadium, even though Leicester City’s ground remains one where Albion have yet to win in the Premier League.
But there was still plenty to enjoy in the 2-2 draw, and plenty to impress the Midlands press pack. Two writers, in fact, felt that Albion have overtaken their hosts as a club with the potential to gatecrash the elite of the Premier League.
John Percy of The Sunday Telegraph, for example, wrote that “not so long ago it was Leicester who were regarded as the model club to disrupt the ‘Big Six’, a beacon for quality recruitment and capable of absorbing the sales of key players.
“It is Brighton who now appear to be the more progressive outfit, continuing their outstanding run of results under Roberto De Zerbi to ensure their supporters are dreaming of European tours.
“Brighton’s upward momentum has carried them into the top six and there was no apparent damage here after another departure with the £21 million sale of Leandro Trossard to Arsenal.
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“Evan Ferguson, an 18-year-old substitute, secured a dramatic yet deserved equaliser two minutes from the end to deny Leicester their first home league win since October 20.
“De Zerbi is proving an excellent, shrewd appointment and, at the moment, Brighton seem to be overtaking Leicester both on and off the field. Their high-speed, controlled football is absorbing to watch and they took the lead in the 27th minute. It was a brilliant finish from Mitoma, who took the ball inside the area before bending a shot into the far corner.
“Leicester had barely threatened but levelled seven minutes before half-time, with substitute Marc Albrighton converting the loose ball after Brighton blocked shots from Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans.
“Solly March should have given Brighton the lead but sliced his shot over and it proved costly, with Barnes netting at the far post six minutes later. But Ferguson nodded in Pervis Estupinan’s cross near the end to extend Brighton’s run.”
John Brewin agreed in The Observer. “This Brighton have been fulfilling a role Leicester once enjoyed, that of progressive provincial power unearthing talent the elite clubs covet,” he wrote. “In the week Leandro Trossard joined Arsenal, Leicester, kicking off two points above the relegation zone, were the cautionary tale of what happens after the tap of talent runs dry after prime cuts are carved off.
“A failure to add to Kaoru Mitoma’s blistering first-half goal had seen the return of the hesitancy in front of goal that previously hobbled Brighton But in Evan Ferguson, the Irish teenage substitute scoring their late equaliser with a powerful, well-directed header from Pervis Estupiñán’s cross, they look to have that problem’s solution.
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“A third goal for the Dubliner since his first on New Year’s Eve against Arsenal was the latest demonstration of his abilities, aerial prowess added to the awareness and support play of last week’s destruction of Liverpool.
“Danny Welbeck had been selected ahead of him. ‘He’s 18 and I have to pay particular attention with him,’ said Roberto De Zerbi, the Brighton manager. ‘Welbeck played well. I want to help Ferguson grow up without too much pressure.’
“Jamie Vardy was bogged down in running battles with Lewis Dunk. Meanwhile, Brighton wingers Solly March and Mitoma were not granted anything like the space of seven days previously by Liverpool but then Estupiñán sprayed the ball wide and after cutting beyond Thomas Castagne, Mitoma lashed a right-foot shot beyond Danny Ward, brilliance seized on a momentary lapse of concentration.”
In The Sunday Times, Charlotte Duncker led on the refusal of the officials to award a penalty for what looked like a clear foul on Danny Welbeck. “The Brighton head coach was booked for going berserk after Welbeck was denied a spot kick early in the second half after Luke Thomas felled the Brighton forward.
“The decision went to VAR, but why Lee Mason decided against sending referee Bramall to the screen to review his decision, nobody knows. The score was 1-1 when the decision was waved away, and it was the slice of luck that Brendan Rodgers and his struggling Leicester side have been looking to go their way for weeks.”
Tom Collomosse of The Mail on Sunday concentrated on Leicester’s recent woes but also noted that Albion are now finding talented players at a level that the Foxes used to unearth.
“Kaoru Mitoma had given Brighton a deserved lead and a single point was the least Roberto De Zerbi’s side deserved, after Danny Welbeck was bizarrely denied a penalty and Pascal Gross missed a sitter,” he wrote.
“What Leicester need is to find a gem like Mitoma. The Japan winger was comfortably the best player on show. Not only did he score a brilliant goal, cutting in from the left and finding the far corner from 20 yards, Mitoma was a constant menace.
“When he stuck to the flank, he made a fool of Timothy Castagne with his flawless touch and clever movement. He was just as effective when drifting inside, allowing Pervis Estupinan to overlap.
“After Mitoma’s opener, it looked like another long afternoon in store for Leicester. But three minutes after replacing the injured Dennis Praet, Albrighton slotted in the equaliser after shots from Barnes and Youri Tielemans had been blocked.
“Then Barnes put Leicester ahead midway through the second half with a controlled finish when Luke Thomas flicked on Albrighton’s corner.
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“But their brittle defence was again exposed when Ferguson, who had replaced Welbeck, sneaked away from Wout Faes and Daniel Amartey to head in off a post. ‘We deserved to win,’ said De Zerbi. ‘We played better than Leicester in the second half there was only one team on the pitch’.”
Graeme Bryce’s entertaining report in The Sun on Sunday began with a neat reference to a certain other footballing Ferguson and continued with an unusual appreciation of Albion’s away kit.
“It wasn't quite Fergie time as it arrived two minutes before the start of stoppage time,” he wrote. “However, Brighton weren't complaining as super sub Evan Ferguson snatched a precious late point to salvage the Seagulls' day.
“The result leaves Brendan Rodgers' Foxes one point above the drop zone but in truth Brighton could easily have won if they had taken a fraction of the chances they created. They ended the game in sixth place with their Euro hopes still intact.
“Roberto De Zerbi's Brighton arrived with a glowing reputation following last week's 3-0 destruction of Liverpool at the Amex Stadium. They certainly dressed appropriately as they were kitted out in their glowing highlighter-orange-coloured away kit.
“Talk about getting noticed... It's rumoured that the Seagulls' change kit now rivals the Great Wall of China as the only man-made object visible from the moon. However there is no doubt the future is bright for De Zerbi's brilliant, battling Brighton.
“You have to feel for Leicester who thought they had managed to grind out a win from a losing position for the first time this season until Ferguson's late leveller. At times it looked as if the Foxes were the away team as they pressed and harried Brighton, seemingly content to hit their high-flying opponents on the break.”
Most of the traffic was in the other direction and Brighton could and should have taken the lead ten minutes later. Kaoru Mitoma's deep corner was frantically finger-tipped by Danny Ward and somehow crashed off Jan Paul van Hecke's head and flew over the bar from two yards. The Dutch defender stared at the empty net in front of him and even he couldn't believe the ball wasn't nestling there.
“The goal Brighton had been threatening arrived just before the half hour but boy, it was worth the wait. Alexis Mac Allister played a one-two in the middle of the park and fed Estupinan who switched play to Mitoma on the left. The Japanese international exposed Timothy Castagne, cutting inside the Belgian before curling a stunning right-footer high into the roof of Ward's net from 20 yards. Sensational.”
And speaking of sensational finishes, the media across the Irish Sea continue to keep a close eye on a certain Dublin-born striker. As Gary Connaughton wrote on the Balls.ie website, “this is Evan Ferguson's world, we're all just living in it. The Irish teenager provided yet another reminder of why he is such an exciting prospect this afternoon, scoring a brilliant late header to help Brighton secure a draw away at Leicester City in the Premier League.
“It continues what has been a remarkable run of form from the 18-year old. He has now scored three goals and registered two assists in his last four league appearances, no small feat for a player who is playing consistent minutes in the division for the first time in his career.
“Ireland fans are rightly excited by his form, salivating at the prospect of what could be to come from him in the years ahead. They're not the only ones, with the Soccer Saturday panel singing his praises after the goal.
“If the last few weeks are anything to go by, he is set to have a massive career. For one so young, there is no doubt that Evan Ferguson shows a maturity beyond his years. Despite having only turned 18-years old in October, he speaks in a manner that you would not expect from someone his age. That was evidenced by his interview with BBC Sport Sussex after this game.”