Gritty Brighton steer clear of relegation despite Ings leveller
Brighton might have sometimes seemed like the most reluctant of Project Restart participants – but have actually been among the most ready. Only two points separated them from the relegation zone when matches resumed, but Graham Potter’s players have responded favourably to being the club with perhaps most to lose and a gritty 1-1 draw against Southampton will almost certainly guarantee their Premier League status.
Aston Villa’s failure to beat Everton means Brighton’s cushion to the bottom three stands at six points and, with two matches to play and a vastly superior goal difference, they could only now be denied by an extraordinary sequence of results. “It’s a big point; hard fought,” said Potter. “We were put under massive pressure in the second half and we defended with our lives.”
Neal Maupay had given Brighton a 17th-minute lead with his 10th goal of the season and, although Potter said that he had no idea what provoked his striker’s “crybaby” gesture of celebration, it was perhaps significant that it was his first strike since the altercation with Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi.
Danny Ings inevitably scored Southampton’s equaliser, and he became only the third player in the club’s history – after Matthew Le Tissier and James Beattie – to reach 20 Premier League goals in a season. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said his players had been “slow in their minds” in the first half but was not exaggerating when he noted that his team could have finished with six goals.
Southampton’s late draw on Monday night at Old Trafford was hugely morale boosting but had left only 72 hours to travel, recover and prepare. It meant a Premier League debut at left-back for 20-year-old Jake Vokins while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, subject of strong interest from both Everton and Tottenham, began in an unfamiliar right-back role. Hasenhuttl confirmed that Hojbjerg has so far refused to extend a contract that expires next summer but said that Southampton would only sell at “the right price for us”. This is understood to be around £30 million. Maupay darted behind Southampton’s defence to cut back and shoot inside goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to open the scoring.
But Brighton finally succumbed after 66 minutes when Nathan Redmond released Ings and he calmly side-footed home to equalise.
Only a genuinely breathtaking save from Mathew Ryan prevented Southampton’s victory, with the Brighton goalkeeper brilliantly tipping Jannik Vestergaard’s powerful shot on to the crossbar.
Opener: Neal Maupay gave Brighton the early advantage when he got in behind the Southampton defence to score