'It wasn't perfect' - Lightning didn't strike twice for Graham Potter's Brighton after half-time tactical switch against Everton

In the 2-1 win at Burnley on the opening day of the season, it was the substitutes that made the difference for Graham Potter and Brighton.

Sunday, 29th August 2021, 9:12 am
Updated Sunday, 29th August 2021, 5:40 pm
Referee Jonathan Moss awarded a penalty to Everton after Brighton's Joel Veltman brought down Seamus Coleman. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Trailing 1-0 with 20 minutes to go at Turf Moor, Jakub Moder was introduced into the action. Within a minute, the Polish International had provided the assist for the leveller. Looking for a winner, the manager then brought on Alexis Mac Allister. Two minutes later, the Argentine struck gold.

Against Everton, it was a different story.

Albion had once again found themselves behind at the break, after Demarai Gray's fine solo goal on the stroke of half-time.

Brighton boss Graham Potter (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Pascal Gross, who started at right wing-back, had been struggling to keep up with the pace of the former Leicester winger in the opening 45 minutes so Potter — who had initially opted for a five-man defence — made a change.

The hero at Burnley, Mac Allister, was the man to be sacrificed as Potter tried to match his opponents by switching to a back-four.

Joel Veltman was brought on, seemingly to deal with Gray. However, it was Adam Webster who was moved to right-back and Veltman was deployed on the opposite side. Gross and Moder were pushed higher up.

"It was just to go to a four," Potter explained post-match. "We wanted to play with Leo [Trossard] and Neal [Maupay] centrally, as two strikers.

"We were trying to control their transition and get an extra player in midfield."

At first, the signs were positive.

Veltman's first action was to put in a dangerous low cross for the stretching Trossard, but the latter couldn't quite direct his effort on target.

Moments later, the Dutchman fired a shot narrowly over the bar.

Trossard had also come to life and Brighton appeared buoyant. An equaliser seemed inevitable.

Potter said: "We started the second half a little bit better. thought we responded quite well in the second half and thought we were in the game."

However, things went horribly wrong. Veltman needlessly brought Seamus Coleman down in the box with a clumsy challenge and Dominic Calvert-Lewin fended off Richarlison to step up and put the ball beyond Sanchez — and the game beyond the hosts.

"The goal takes the wind out of our sails and makes it more difficult for us," Potter added. "The second goal was the one that took it away from us."

Looking back on his half-time decision, Potter said: "It wasn't perfect, to be honest."

Potter made two further substitutions in the second-half — Danny Welbeck making his return from injury and Taylor Richards appearing in the Premier League for the first time.

Although they will be seen as two positives from the day, the pair were unable to make a telling impact on the game as Everton held firm to record their first win in nine Premier League meetings between the teams.

Reality check for Albion

Despite this result, it has still been an impressive start to the season for Albion.

Fans can be forgiven for getting a bit carried away after winning their opening two games — their best start to a Premier League season.

Everton's display would have given Albion a reality check but the visitors were always going to prove a sterner test than Burnley and Watford.

The Seagulls started brightly and it looked like they may continue their fine run. They looked so impressive on the ball, none more so than Yves Bissouma, with the crowd regularly showing their appreciation.

But they couldn't turn their possession into chances.

Albion enjoyed 66 per cent of the possession but only three of their 14 efforts were on target.

Everton also had 14 shots — five of them on target — but they were clinical when it mattered.

The stats suggest that it was a very even contest and Brighton were unlucky to lose, but this doesn't tell the full story.

A classy and composed Everton side asserted their authority on the game mid-way through the first half and they never looked back. Despite Brighton's early dominance, there were warning signs on the counter before Gray eventually found the net.

It looked like the Toffees could have scored more than two, with Rob Sanchez keeping out efforts from Andros Townsend and Abdoulaye Doucouré in either half.

Brighton, meanwhile, never really looked like scoring against a solid Everton defence, with no clear cut chances of note.

Maupay's early long range effort, which glimpsed the crossbar, displayed his new-found confidence. He was hoping to become the first player to score in each of Brighton's first three league games in a single campaign, since Nicky Forster in 2008/09 but, the French striker barely had a sniff all afternoon.

This season is a prime opportunity for Brighton to avoid a relegation battle and finish higher up the table but, with an evident lack of pace in the forward areas, they may need to bring in a new face before the transfer window slams shut.

Time will tell.