Aston Villa 1, Brighton 1: Albion miss out on Championship title after dramatic finish

Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa. Crowd shot. Picture by PW Sporting Pics
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa. Crowd shot. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Brighton & Hove Albion suffered dramatic final-day heartbreak as they were minutes away from lifting the Championship title.

A 89th-minute equaliser from Jack Grealish saw Albion's fingers pried off the trophy after a second-half Glenn Murray penalty had looked as though it would seal them the crown.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Jamie Murphy in action against Aston Villa. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Brighton & Hove Albion's Jamie Murphy in action against Aston Villa. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

The Seagulls just had to match Newcastle United's result and Murray's 23rd goal of the season after a straight red card to Villa's Nathan Baker looked as though it would be enough.

With Newcastle taking an early lead against Barnsley and going on to win 3-0, Albion knew they must win to not miss out on the crown.

It had looked to be going their way despite being far from at their best, but the ten-men of Villa rallied for a late leveler and helped Newcastle United lift the trophy.

The visitors made five changes from the side that lost 1-0 to Bristol City last weekend as Fikayo Tomori, Seb Pocognoli, Steve Sidwell, Jamie Murphy and Sam Baldock came in for Gaetan Bong, Uwe Hunemeier, Beram Kayal, Jiri Skalak and Tomer Hemed.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Villa meanwhile were without starmen Gabby Agbonlahor and Mile Jedinak. Three changes saw Alan Hutton and Jonathan Kodjia miss out through injury and replaced by James Bree, Jordan Amavi and Albert Adomah for Gary Gardner, who was the other casualty of last week's 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

The first real action came on 13 minutes as David Stockdale was forced to get down to his left and turn behind Henri Lansbury's effort from 23 yards.

Murray was on hand six minutes later to put in a crucial block in his own penalty area as a Lansbury free kick fell to Adomah in space, but he was quickly closed down.

Pocognoli almost gifted the hosts the opener a minute later as he chested a cross back into the six-yard box looking for his goalkeeper, but found Lansbury, who somehow headed wide from four yards.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Steve Sidwell in action against Aston Villa. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Brighton & Hove Albion's Steve Sidwell in action against Aston Villa. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Albion began to carve out to their own chances as Steve Sidwell glanced a header wide from a free kick and then again nodded over from a deep Bruno cross.

Villa should have led on 34 minute as Scott Hogan latched onto a loose back-pass from Pocognoli, but Stockdale got enough on his angled effort to get it around the far post.

At the other end, neat footwork by Anthony Knockaert saw him slip Baldock in on the right of the goal, but he scooped his effort over the bar.

Hogan then had to be replaced after picking up an injury as he was fouled on the edge of the box and from the resulting free kick, Hourihane's effort was tipped around the post by Stockdale.

Villa had huge appeals for a penalty waved away at the start of the second half as Dunk slid in on Davis, but even though he won the ball, Steve Bruce was irrate on the sideline. From the resulting corner, Dunk headed off the line and the follow-up was blazed over the bar.

Albion started to respond as Baldock turned in the Villa box and his shot was kept out by the legs of Villa keeper Sam Johnstone, before Murray glanced a header narrowly wide from a Murphy cross just before the hour mark.

Things dramatically swung back in Albion's favour soon after as Baldock went through, but was clipped behind by Nathan Baker as he shot in the box. Referee Darren Bond immediately point to the spot and sent the Villa defender off.

Murray then sent Johnstone the wrong way from the penalty spot sparking wild scenes in the away end as Albion climbed back into top spot in the table.

It was all Albion for a spell after that as Murray failed to pick out Baldock, Knockaert's shot was blocked, Sidwell headed just wide and Bruno's fierce effort was turned behind.

There were some nervy moments as well; James Bree's strike from distance taking a deflection before going behind and with fine minutes left, Stockdale had to be at his best to parry away a Hourihane free kick.

And Villa ruined Albion's party in the 89th minute as Grealish's shot from 20 yards went through Stockdale's legs and into the net.

Albion threw everything forwards in the closing stages and despite the heartbreak of missing out on the title, the traveling fans were still in good voice at full-time looking forward to Premier League football.

Brighton: Stockdale, Bruno (Rosenior 81), Dunk, Tomori, Pocognoli, Knockaert, Sidwell, Stephens, Murphy (March 61), Baldock (Hemed 89), Murray. Unused subs: Maenpaa, Bong, Kayal, Skalak.

Aston Villa: Johnstone, Bree, Chester, Bakes, Taylor, Lansbury, Hourihane, Amavi (Elphick 65), Bacuna, Adomah (Grealish 61), Hogan (Davis 45). Unused subs: Bunn, Richards, Elphick, Gardner, O'Hare.

Attendance: 32,856.