Brighton fight hard to earn a point against Stoke
José Izquierdo’s equaliser pegged the visitors back for the second time
Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Stoke City 2
Brighton & Hove Albion twice came from behind to earn a draw at home to Stoke and extend their unbeaten run to five matches, with the manager, Chris Hughton, doubtless grateful his team overcame the referee’s failure to award them a first-half penalty. José Izquierdo and Pascal Gross replied to goals by Maxim Choupo-Moting and Kurt Zouma to earn a point on the south coast.
This proved entertaining fare on a dank evening in Sussex. Brighton remain ninth in the table while Mark Hughes’ side prolonged their own unbeaten run to three matches to stay 15th, four points above the relegation zone.
Hughton’s team were unchanged from the one that ran out victorious at Swansea City two weeks ago. Hughes, meanwhile, made one enforced change, with Lee Grant replacing Jack Butland in goal after the England man sustained a broken finger in international practice. Peter Crouch was named on the bench alongside Saido Berahino, without a goal to his name in the previous 632 days.
Hughton had described Stoke as a “very manly side”, no doubt a nod to their attritional approach and one that paid dividends all the same after 28 minutes. Xherdan Shaqiri’s floated ball over the Brighton defence in search of Choupo-Moting caught Lewis Dunk cold and by the time the defender realised the whereabouts of his man, the Stoke striker had coolly slotted home his third goal of the season, beyond Mathew Ryan, the Brighton goalkeeper.
It was a goal against the run of play given Brighton dominated the early proceedings. José Izquierdo, the £13.5m club-record signing, was lively but wild in possession. He did, though, drop one curling shot agonisingly wide of Grant’s goal after being slid in superbly by another summer signing, Davy Propper.
Ruffled after going behind, Brighton were raging when the referee awarded not a spot-kick but a goal-kick six minutes before the interval, when the Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross, already the pantomime villain after some early handbags, cut down Glenn Murray inside the box. It really was the definition of a stonewall penalty. An incensed Hughton could only vent his anger at the fourth official, Kevin Friend.
Friend was the peacemaker moments later, when Hughes erupted at Murray’s meaty lunge on Kevin Wimmer.
Once Brighton composed themselves they pulled level, however. After a relentless driving run past a sea of Stoke shirts, Propper crossed for Pascal Gross – so often the supplier this term – to smash in an equaliser just before half-time. But less than two minutes later Stoke regained the lead, when Zouma’s header from Choupo-Moting’s flick had the Brighton net rippling once more. Then came the lengthy celebration, with Choupo-Moting joining the Chelsea loanee for a rehearsed jive in front of the North stand. Erik Pieters, too, from halfway, joined in the fun.
A sour ending to the first half saw Brighton come out fighting for the second with the bit between their teeth, with Murray promptly dispatching a shot on target.
But Stoke’s centre-back pairing of Shawcross and Zouma stood firm and coped with the in-form striker amid the inevitable second-half onslaught. In fact Stoke could have doubled their lead on 50 minutes, when a neat one-two between Joe Allen and Ramadan Sobhi fashioned a chance for the latter, with the Brighton defender Bruno forcing his goalkeeper Ryan into a smart save.
But just as the home crowd began to grow restless, Brighton came up with a solution. Murray played in Izquierdo, whose pass pinballed off Pieters and back to him, allowing the Colombian to rattle home a leveller on the hour mark. Hughton clenched his fists and the home fans roused.
Murray continued to thrive as Brighton’s go-to man while another striker in his mid-30s prepared to make history. Stoke summoned Crouch, in place of Shaqiri, for the striker to make his 143rd appearance as a Premier League substitute, surpassing the record he previously shared with Shola Ameobi.
Brighton, too, tweaked personnel and pushed and pushed for a winner during three minutes of added time, with Hughton introducing Izzy Brown and Ezequiel Schelotto in search of some magic.
It never came and though an evening of frustration, the feel-good factor lives on. – Guardian service