Brighton 2-2 Stoke Seven Things: Potters lacking ambition?

Murray tussles with Fletcher and Diouf – skysports.com

Brighton & Hove Albion came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Stoke City on Monday night. Goals from Pascal Gross and Jose Izquierdo cancelled out first half strikes from Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Kurt Zouma respectively. Here’s seven things from the game.

Brighton’s transitional attacks

The home side’s best moments came when they stole the ball and played the ball to Jose Izquierdo, who got in the gaps down the left behind Mame Biram Diouf to cause positional dilemmas for Kurt Zouma. Izquierdo, who fired just wide after closing in on goal on 18 minutes, created a few openings for his teammates, but two of them fell to Dale Stephens, who couldn’t quite get his shooting right.

Predatory Potters

Centre-backs Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy lost concentration for one moment and were punished. Xherdan Shaqiri played an excellent ball over the top for Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, who showed clever movement to get in behind Dunk before finishing with unerring ease. They then kept a deep shape, acknowledging that Brighton looked less comfortable when granted possession for long spells, with no target man to hit.

Late first half drama

Glenn Murray is not the type of striker that relishes high balls. On the deck though he might have won a penalty after being allegedly tripped by Ryan Shawcross but the referee hesitantly waved away appeals. The hosts grabbed an equalizer when Davy Propper went on a strong run, unchallenged by a timid Stoke rearguard, before setting up Pascal Gross to slot through the legs of Lee Grant. The Potters went up the other end and scored within a minute though. Brighton had looked shaky at set pieces and after Bruno failed to win a right-sided delivery, Shawcross flicked the ball on for Zouma to head home.

Super Izquierdo

Brighton began the second half with spells of pressure and were rewarded with a quality goal. Once again, Izquierdo got in behind and after a deft pass from Murray, his cross was blocked but Kevin Wimmer failed to clear and the winger rammed home at the second attempt. The goal was richly deserved for the Portuguese winger, who posed a threat all evening.

Slow Stoke

Peter Crouch’s arrival in place of Shaqiri hinted at a Stoke plan to commit men forward and get balls in the box, but it soon transpired that they were happy to take a point. With Joe Allen not the most athletic midfielder and Darren Fletcher coming to the end of his career, they lacked the stamina to impose themselves in the middle third in the latter stages. Stephens was therefore given a free ride to call the shots and the substitutes looked lively late on, but it took some good defending from the visitors to deny them clear cut chances.

Where’s the ambition?

The way Mark Hughes seemingly settled for a point late on implies that his mind is on safety, rather than pushing his team onto the top half – a win would have taken up to 10th. It is understandable that after nearly a decade at this level, some fans wanted to see more ambition from the board and the management team. Without either fresh ideas or fresh investment – and preferably both – Stoke are in danger of stagnating.

Albion five unbeaten

Chris Hughton’s side couldn’t play the whole game on their own terms, forced to have the ball for long spells which didn’t suit the strengths of their defence and midfield. However, they looked a threat when they did find gaps in behind and showed relentless spirit to take the point. If Brighton can iron out their defensive frailties shown, which had been rare before tonight, they could be in for an exciting first season back in the top flight.