First home win for Brighton against struggling Spurs

Aaron Connolly comes off the bench and comes close to scoring second Brighton goal

Toby Alderweireld denies Aaron Connolly with a block on the the line. Photograph: Getty Images

Toby Alderweireld denies Aaron Connolly with a block on the the line. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Brighton 1 Tottenham 0

This was a priceless win for Brighton, who were better than Tottenham from the start and richly deserved to end their 14-game barren home run.

Spurs’ lack of answer to Leandro Trossard’s 17th-minute winner will pose an almighty headache for José Mourinho given he is likely to miss Harry Kane for at least another five matches. The sight of Gareth Bale departing two-thirds of the way through after an ineffective display was dispiriting for anyone who hoped Mourinho has an off-the-shelf plan B and he needs to stumble upon something given the slim pickings offered here. The truth was Brighton could easily have won by more.

Mourinho’s starting lineup hummed with the repercussions of the loose, error-strewn defeat by Liverpool. There was no sign of Serge Aurier, who had left the stadium at half-time after being substituted, while Eric Dier and Matt Doherty were relegated to the bench. It meant Moussa Sissoko was jammed into service at right wing-back, with Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sánchez recalled in the middle.

Then there was the selection, facilitated by Kane’s absence, of Bale in attack. Bale had only started once in the league since his return; he had one top-flight goal to his name, too, although that was the winner against Brighton in November. This was a chance he needed to take and he began on the right, Steven Bergwijn nominally occupying the centre-forward position.

Before the game Mourinho had been at pains to say Brighton were in a false position. Their start suggested he was right and, even before Trossard’s goal, they could have led. For most of the season their approach play has lacked a finish: the same could be said in the fourth minute when Pascal Gross, located after slick work from Neal Maupay and Alexis Mac Allister, wrapped the outside of his right foot around the ball but struck the base of Hugo Lloris’s post.

Brighton kept coming and found the killer touch. Mac Allister went wide with a curling 20-yard effort and, before long, contributed to the opener. The Argentinian has quietly become a deft, exciting operator and proved the point with an expertly weighted pass to find Gross inside the right of the area. Gross cut back for Trossard, who clipped home first time to cap a sharp, satisfying move.

It was met with less enthusiasm by Spurs, who could not get going. Bergwijn dragged wide on the half-hour, to token concern from Robert Sánchez, but the speed and precision were all directed the other way. Brighton showed little appetite to sit on their lead and had plenty of encouragement to seek greater profit given the lack of pressure on them.

Trossard surged into the chasm between midfield and defence and teed up Maupay, who could not turn and shoot before Alderweireld intervened. Bale had hardly been involved but, seven minutes before the break, cleared a goalbound Lewis Dunk header from near the line. Tottenham were being swamped and, if Mourinho was riled at the interval in midweek, one wondered what his players would walk into this time.

Davinson Sánchez was told to sit out the second half, seemingly more due to tactical necessity than any scapegoating. He had been no worse than anyone else but Carlos Vinicius replaced him and Spurs, switching to a 4-2-3-1, had an attacking spearhead now.

Within nine minutes Vinicius had made his presence felt, reaching a deep Bale corner and heading downwards from an angle, requiring an uncertain Sánchez to save with his legs. Spurs had emerged at slightly higher intensity, Adam Webster blocking a drive from the hitherto peripheral Son Heung-min.

They were still having to work harder for any chances than an impressive home side, though, and needed Lloris to keep them in the game shortly before the hour. He sprawled to his right after Ben White’s snap shot deflected off Alderweireld, the loose ball evading onrushing blue shirts. Maupay air-kicked soon afterwards after Solly March had led a bright counter and, in truth, you could have taken your pick of such events.

Bale had worked gamely enough without posing any threat and was replaced by Lucas Moura for the final 29 minutes. Spurs’ minor improvement had fizzled out, while they continued to offer Brighton a bewildering amount of space to pick a way through.

Vinicius produced their best effort by a distance with 15 minutes left, drawing a superb one-handed save from Sánchez.

But a late siege never materialised and, at the other end, only Aaron Connolly will know how he let Alderweireld clear with an empty net begging; to the Irish attacker’s relief and Mourinho’s chagrin, it did not matter. - Guardian

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