Albion 2, Atletico 3: Knockaert makes injury return in impressive show against star-studded Spanish giants

Anthony Knockaert gave Brighton & Hove Albion a big boost as he made an early comeback from injury as the Seagulls completed their pre-season campaign with a narrow defeat in their prestige friendly with Atletico Madrid.

Sunday, 6th August 2017, 7:13 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 4:17 am
Steve Sidwell heads home Albion's second goal against Atletico Madrid. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

The La Liga giants edged to victory in front of a packed Amex as Lucas Hernandez netted the winner two minutes from time after Albion had twice come from behind to level through goals from Pascal Gross and Steve Sidwell.

Diego Simeone's men initially led through Nicolas Gaitan's first-half goal after a Mathew Ryan error. And while Gross' deflected free kick got Albion level in the second half, Fernando Torres again put Atletico ahead, before Sidwell's header.

But the story of the day was star man Knockaert make a surprise return to the bench and play the last 20 minutes ahead of their Premier League opener against Manchester City next Saturday.

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

The winger, who netted 15 goals for the Seagulls last season, was a doubt for the opening clash after picking up an ankle injury in their pre-season training camp in Austria.

The result will give Chris Hughton plenty to think about and some optimism in their final days' preparations after a decent display against a star-studded Spanish line-up.

The visitors, as could be expected, had plenty of the ball in the opening stages, but didn't really trouble Ryan until the eighth minute when a Griezmann free-kick from 22 yards dipped into the Australian's arms.

Another set-piece four minutes later saw Yannick Carrasco's low volleyed effort in the box palmed away by Ryan and the follow-up from Griezmann was also blocked away.

Pascal Gross' deflected free kick sees Albion level the score at 1-1 against Atletico Madrid. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

Ryan produced another diving save on 16 minutes as the dangerous Carrasco skipped past two challenges, the latter a lunge by Bruno and tried to curl into the bottom corner.

Albion continued to contain their hosts, who enjoyed plenty of possession, and it took until the 28th minute for Atletico keeper Jan Oblak to touch the ball.

Shortly after came the hosts' best chance as Izzy Brown won a free kick on the left and Gross' ball was headed goalwards by Shane Duffy, but took a touch off an opponent and went over.

Ryan produced another good save at his near post to deny Griezmann and Hernandez's follow-up was denied by a desperate block from Bruno and Duffy. The ball then broke free to Carrasco, who went down under a Gross tackle, and despite it looking like a penalty, the winger was booked for diving by referee Kevin Friend.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Izzy Brown in action. Picture by PW Sporting Pics

The La Liga side led two minutes before the break and for all Ryan's saves it was a howler that gifted them it. The keeper looked like he had collected a speculative shot from Gaitan, only to let it slip at his legs and creep into the net.

Albion made a triple change at the break as Gaetan Bong, Sidwell and Solly March replaced Markus Suttner, Beram Kayal and Jamie Murphy. It was March who was straight into the action as he cut inside from the right a fizzed an effort narrowly over the bar from 20 yards.

The home side certainly saw more of the ball after the break and were level just past the hour mark as Gross' low free kick took a wicked deflection off an Atletico boot and went in off the inside of the post.

The lead lasted just six minutes, however, as Torres was left unmarked in the box and he headed home a cross, before being instantly replaced as Atletico rang the changes.The second biggest cheer of the afternoon came on 70 minutes as Knockaert made his return from injury from the bench replacing Hemed.

And Albion leveled again on 76 minutes as March produced some slick style out on the left and stood the ball up for Sidwell who glanced home at the far post.

But it was to be the Spanish side that would pinch the victory as a Griezmann shot was well saved by Ryan, but Hernandez smashed home the winner with two minutes to play.

Atletico: Oblak, Juanfran, Savic, Giménez (Godín 68), Lucas, Gabi (Thomas 68), Koke, Gaitán (Augusto 83), Carrasco, Griezmann (Keidi 90), Torres (Correa 68). Subs: Moyá, Sergi, Amath, Vietto.

Albion: Ryan; Bruno (Rosenior 70), Duffy, Dunk, Suttner (Bong 45); Murphy (March 45, Skalak 89), Stephens, Kayal (Sidwell 45), Brown (LuaLua 89); Gross, Hemed (Knockaert 70). Subs: Maenpaa, Huenemeier, Goldson.