Six things we learned from Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle
Brighton took a huge step towards Premier League safety with a 1-1 draw against Newcastle yesterday. Here's six things we learned from the game.
The draw with Newcastle has taken Albion a huge step closer to Premier League safety.
The Seagulls are now four points clear of third-from-bottom Cardiff with just two games left each and Brighton also have a superior goal difference.
Albion have a tough final two fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester City, while the Bluebirds face Crystal Palace and Manchester United.
Brighton will feel they have almost done enough now to secure a third successive season in the top flight. If they do stay up, the summer transfer window will be crucial as a run of 14 points from 21 league fixtures has seen Albion creep their way to safety when at one time they looked on course to comfortably stay up.
Another crucial goal from Gross
Pascal Gross scored the goal which saw Brighton beat Manchester United to seal survival last season and he got another crucial goal yesterday.
The German midfielder made a clever run to nod home Glenn Murray's header forward 15 minutes from time.
It was just his third goal of a stop-start season owing to injury and Albion have missed Gross' creativity at times.
The goal was also Brighton's first since their FA Cup quarter-final win at Millwall on March 17. Brighton had already gone seven matches without a goal for the first time in their history and the goal drought also became a club record during yesterday's match.
March the spark
Solly March came off the bench at half-time and sparked Brighton into life.
The winger was on top form as he gave the Newcastle wing-backs a tough afternoon. He started on the right before switching to the left after Anthony Knockaert's introduction.
March sent in a couple of teasing deliveries, won set-pieces and had a shot blocked in an impressive 45 minutes.
He also got the crowd behind the Seagulls after a smattering of boos when the players went off for half-time.
Lack of desire in the first half?
Chris Hughton had spoken on BT Sport before the game about Albion showing desire in the first half but the Seagulls were awful in the opening 45 minutes.
Former Brighton midfielder Steve Sidwell, a pundit on BT, said Hughton did not get the desire he was looking for as Albion had just 38 per cent possession and did not have a shot on goal.
The visitors also out-ran and out-sprinted the Seagulls in the first half but Albion were much better after the break.
The introduction of Solly March seemed to spark Brighton into life and they showed plenty of attacking intent and desire in the second period. Pascal Gross headed the equaliser 15 minutes from time and it was a point Albion deserved in the end.
Duo make rare starts
Midfielder Beram Kayal and Jose Izquierdo came into the starting line-up for rare starts this season.
Kayal made his first Premier League start since November and only his eighth of the season, while Izquierdo made just his ninth league start of the campaign after an injury-disrupted campaign.
Albion knew a win would all but ensure their place in the Premier League for another season owing to their superior goal difference over Cardiff and Seagulls manager Chris Hughton went for an attacking line-up.
Strikers Glenn Murray and Florin Andone started a game together for the first time and Hughton had the likes of Jurgen Locadia, Anthony Knockaert and Solly March to call upon off the bench. Club record signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh did not make the 18-man squad.
Belief for the run-in
There have been positives for Brighton in the last week to take into their final two fixtures.
Albion showed defensive resilience in their 0-0 draw at Wolves last week and again in their late 1-0 defeat at Tottenham in midweek.
While the first half against Newcastle was disappointing, Brighton will hope to take their second half performance into their games with Arsenal and Manchester City.
The Seagulls will have to defend well in both matches but will need to show a bit more creativity and attacking flair to have a chance of grabbing a shock win.
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