KNOCKAERT HELPS SEAGULLS SOAR
FOR Chris Hughton the chance to sign a proven Championship title-winner in Anthony Knockaert was a no-brainer.
And all the skills the Frenchman showed weekly for Leicester two years ago were needed once again for Hughton’s Brighton to overcome indefatigable Huddersfield.
Knockaert was the catalyst behind both the Seagulls’ goals, providing the essential contribution in a sublime counter-attack that ended in Bobby Zamora’s first-half opener and the cross for James Wilson’s second-half winner.
Hughton said:“That’s the reason why we brought him in.We know he knows the division.
“We need to be scoring more goals and to score more goals you need more assists, and that’s exactly why we brought him in.
“I’m more delighted that he’s a worker. He will work both ways; sometimes with that type of gifted player, they are very good going forwards, but not so much the other way.”
Huddersfield dominated possession, as has become their modus operandi under head coach David Wagner and the Terriers were the superior side in the pitch’s middle third.
But for Wagner to insist afterwards that a draw “wasn’t unfair” was to ignore their deficiencies in the other two thirds, especially the final third. Their passing was neat and metronomic, but it was mainly between the centre-backs and holding midfielders.
The opening goal came from a Huddersfield corner that the goalscorer, Zamora, headed clear. Beram Kayal broke from the penalty area, feeding Knockaert down Brighton’s right. The home debutant then lofted a perfect pass over the retreating Huddersfield defenders into the path of the latearriving Zamora, who cushioned his first-time shot into the far corner. It was a devastating transition from defence to attack.
With the final kick of the first half Huddersfield equalised. Harry Bunn headed in Tommy Smith’s cross after Jamie Paterson’s raking pass had split Brighton open.
One wild close-range effort from Nahki Wells aside, Huddersfield otherwise failed to threaten in either half, but Brighton were a constant danger on the counter-attack. Knockaert only had to wiggle his hips and defenders perished in his wake.
One such hip-shimmy played a key role in the winning goal.The nonpareil, having just hit the post with a free-kick, received the ball in space wide on the right, rumbaed past Jason Davidson and crossed for Manchester Unitedloanee Wilson to head in.
Hughton added: “We weren’t at our best first half, but we scored the goal and we had three or four really good opportunities on the counter-attack.
“If we had shown a bit more intelligence or quality, then certainly we would have gone in with a bigger lead.”
His opposite number Wagner, who saw Smith shown a second yellow late on, said:“I think for the most part of the game we did quite well. If we had got something from the game, this wasn’t unfair. Especially in the second half there was nothing from either side until the goal.
“I think to beat the top teams in the league it is important to not make easy mistakes, and here we did one too many. This is why we lost.
“In the first half there were only counter-attack chances for Brighton in their own stadium. At 2-1 we were not able or fresh enough to create chances. In the last ten minutes we tried only with the long ball to create chances.We had some moments in the box, but they were not clear enough.”
LOAN STAR: Anthony Knockaert, left, celebrates with Brighton’s James Wilson after the Manchester United loanee’s winner, inset
STAR MAN ANTHO