Brighton 1-2 Newcastle: Six Things

Toon celebrate Ayoze’s late winner –

Newcastle’s late comeback at Brighton saw them victorious in a crucial game at the top of the Championship – but what are the key talking points?

Darlow kept Newcastle in it

Brighton went ahead through Glenn Murray’s 10th minute penalty, but the fact they did not score more in the opening 20 was largely down to Karl Darlow. The goalkeeper palmed away Bruno’s fierce drive and saved from Sam Baldock from close range. Darlow denied Murray just before half-time, Knockaert just after and at 1-0, he kept his side in the game for long enough for them to stage a comeback.

Pocognoli injury hindered Brighton

Sebastien Pocognoli played a steady part in Brighton’s early control, but went off with a groin problem on 18 minutes. His injury comes in a less than ideal area for the Seagulls with Gaetan Bong and Liam Rosenior also out. Replacing Pocognoli at left-back was Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori, a right-back by trade with limited experience and the teenager naturally became a target. DeAndre Yedlin and Christian Atsu combined down the right, the former drilling across for the latter to fire goalwards but straight at David Stockdale.

Mixed game for Stockdale

The goalkeeper saved Yoann Gouffran’s first half effort, then after the break he held Shelvey’s free-kick as well as a header from Toon substitute Daryl Murphy, who provided a physical presence. Another piece of work however was self-inflicted, as Stockdale’s short pass out was intercepted by Gouffran, but the goalkeeper atoned for his error and the imperious Shane Duffy completed the clearance. Any niggling doubts about his decision-making were deepened when, with Glenn Murray set to head the ball away, he half-heartedly attacked it without need. Having come off his line, he left space behind him to his left which Mohamed Diame found superbly.

Diame’s wonder-goal

After Stockdale’s punch, Atsu fired in a wayward shot at full speed and Diame knew that by taking a first touch, he risked losing control in a crowded penalty area. One could see by the shape of his feet in the replay that he intended to use the power of Atsu’s shot to guide the ball into the corner, the space Stockdale had vacated. Diame showed remarkable audacity to try that type of shot, let alone the speed of thought to pull it off. This was no fluke – it should be remembered as one of the best Championship goals of all time and one of the most important.

Contrasting subs

After the equalizer, fortune favoured the brave. Chris Hughton sent out the message: ‘hold out for a point’ by introducing Beram Kayal for Sam Baldock. The idea was to tighten up the midfield, but in practice it left Glenn Murray, who is not known for having the speed to carry a team upfield, isolated up top. Equally, Rafa Benitez sensed momentum to be with his side and stuck with the attacking substitution he had planned before Diame’s leveller. Ayoze Perez replaced Gouffran and used his relentless energy to harry a tiring Brighton rearguard. After a drilled cross from the left by the ever-lively Atsu, Perez rammed home the winner to spark delirium among the travelling fans.

Defining moment?

In any promotion season, there is normally one or two moments that feel defining. Bournemouth went 2-0 down to Birmingham in April 2015, having dropped points in seven of 11 games but went on to win 4-2 before claiming the title. After Middlesbrough had a blip last season that caused Aitor Karanka to leave for a game, the Spaniard returned to the dugout and oversaw a late winner in a 1-0 win over Hull.

Any concerns over Newcastle’s recent performances had been heightened by the relentless form of Huddersfield, whose game in hand and forthcoming fixture with Toon suggested matters could change quickly. Defeat on the south-coast would have given momentum to those fears, but that 10-minute turnaround puts Benitez’s side eight points clear of the Terriers. Brighton remain in a good position and if they can learn not to invite too much pressure late on in future games, they should go up, but this victory felt significant for Newcastle.