Gross gets Brighton across the line against sloppy United

De­light for Hughton as his side out­play vis­i­tors to se­cure place in top flight

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - DO­MINIC FIFIELD At the Amex Sta­dium

Brighton have en­joyed plenty of giddy highs since their restora­tion to the top di­vi­sion last sum­mer, but this was a vic­tory to cap an en­tire cam­paign.

In se­cur­ing a first win over Manch­ester United in 36 years, Chris Hughton’s team have se­cured Premier League foot­ball for an­other sea­son.

It was a glo­ri­ous way to achieve their term’s prin­ci­pal aim, and one to be savoured through the play­ers’ post-match lap of ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

They had not squeezed out the win amid pres­sure ex­erted by their op­po­nents. Al­bion’s had been the brighter ap­proach for long pe­ri­ods, their at­tack­ing play far more as­sured and in­ci­sive than the dis­jointed vis­i­tors.

This is the first time United have been beaten at the three pro­moted teams in the top flight and, while they are still likely to fin­ish sec­ond, few of those play­ers who were of­fered the chance to im­press by José Mour­inho will have mer­ited in­clu­sion in the FA Cup fi­nal on this ev­i­dence. The Por­tuguese’s body lan­guage for much of the oc­ca­sion spoke vol­umes.

The lo­cals prob­a­bly had enough points al­ready to guar­an­tee a sec­ond suc­ces­sive sea­son in the top flight, though a few doubts had still nagged with away games at the Premier League win­ners and the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal­ists to come in the fi­nal week.

Hor­ri­bly slack

This, even against a team as im­pos­ing as United, had felt their best op­por­tu­nity to regis­ter re­ward from the run-in and that sense was only re­in­forced through the open­ing pe­riod. Where Al­bion were ur­gent and en­er­getic, the vis­i­tors were hor­ri­bly slack. Mour­inho ini­tially prowled his tech­ni­cal area, dis­gust etched across his brow. Soon he had re­tired to his bench, and long be­fore half-time was in the mouth of the tun­nel, as if too in­fu­ri­ated to be any closer to such a dis­play.

He had made six changes, with the in­jured Alexis Sánchez among those omit­ted, though that did not ex­cuse the care­less­ness of it all. Sim­ple passes were guided out of play, team-mates de­liv­er­ing blindly and mis­read­ing col­leagues’ runs, their wave­lengths for­ever scram­bled, or sim­ply los­ing their foot­ing with alarm­ing fre­quency.

Slop­pi­ness in­fected the vis­i­tors’ ap­proach with only David de Gea ex­celling. The goal­keeper sum­moned a won­der­ful save mid­way through the first half, spring­ing to his right to turn Glenn Mur­ray’s vi­cious shot from dis­tance be­yond his post. The striker had maybe sensed his op­po­nent marginally out of po­si­tion, but De Gea’s re­flexes were not in doubt.

There was a sim­i­larly timely fin­ger­tip save to deny the pesky Jose Izquierdo as he cut in­side seek­ing to repli­cate the goal – plun­dered against West Ham – voted Al­bion’s best of their top flight cam­paign, and a block from Chris­tian Gross at his near-post.

In­ci­sive

Izquierdo and An­thony Knock­aert ha­rassed United’s back-line, Mur­ray caus­ing them prob­lems in the air, and ev­ery at­tempt to build in­ci­sive pos­ses­sion as a ri­poste broke down in or around the Brighton penalty area. It was as if United had been de­flated to have Marouane Fel­laini’s third minute goal ruled out, cor­rectly, for off­side. Only Mar­cus Rash­ford’s run­ning hinted at re­ward, though his de­ci­sion-mak­ing was off at times.

There was al­ways likely to be a re­sponse there­after, re­newed in­tent sig­nalled by Paul Pogba’s near-post shot which was well saved by Mathew Ryan, though Brighton re­tained a threat on the counter and fully mer­ited the lead fi­nally gleaned just be­fore the hour.

Izquierdo, tor­ment­ing Mat­teo Darmian, saw his cross flick up off De Gea’s glove to­wards a mess of bod­ies at the far post, with Gross emerg­ing from the clut­ter to head goal­wards. That at­tempt was hooked away from be­hind the goal-line by Mar­cos Rojo, with the hosts’ cel­e­bra­tions de­layed un­til the ref­eree’s watch had buzzed in recog­ni­tion of the re­ward.

Izquierdo might have pil­fered a sec­ond while United were still di­gest­ing their deficit, slid­ing his shot wide of the near-post from Gross’ cen­tre, though the vis­i­tors were fi­nally spurred into some sort of ac­tion as they chased par­ity. Not that they hemmed their hosts back.

Ryan then de­nied Rash­ford and the sub­sti­tute Jessie Lin­gard from dis­tance. When they did gain a clear sight of goal late on, Rash­ford’s re­turn flick find­ing Lin­gard burst­ing into the area, the mid­fielder could only squirt his shot wide as Shane Duffy slid in to chal­lenge.

That rather summed up both teams’ night. Al­bion sim­ply would not be thwarted.

– Guardian BRIGHTON: Ryan, Salt or, Duffy, Dunk, Bong, Knock ae rt, Stephens, Prop per, Izqui er do (March 88), Gross( Kay al 84), M ur ray(Ul lo a 90). Subs not used: Gold son, Sc he lotto, Lo cad ia, Krul. Booked: Mur­ray, Gross. MAN CHE STE RU TD: De Ge a, Dar mi an( Shaw 68), Sm a ll ing,Rojo(Mc To mi nay 76), Young, Fell aini(L in ga rd 68), Ma tic, Pog ba, Mata, Rash ford, Mar­tial. Subs not used: Lin del of, Bail ly, Romero, An der Her­rera. Ref­eree: Craig Paw son( South York­shire ).

PHO­TO­GRAPH: MIKE HE­WITT/GETTY

Brighton & Hove Al­bion play­ers cel­e­brate Pas­cal Gross’s win­ning goal against Manch­ester United at the Amex Sta­dium last night.

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