A disappointing day after enjoying a string of superb wins over the past few weeks, but just like we didn’t get carried away after three straight wins, we won’t overreact to a closely contested defeat here.
We huffed and puffed, but a second half striker from Tomer Hemed was enough to hand Brighton all three points in a closely contested affair at the Amex this afternoon.
It puts an end to our three game winning streak however, despite our lack of conviction in front of goal, it was a game we could’ve got something out of on another day.
We had 17 shots to their 7, shaded possession and applied decent pressure at times, but just fell short too often with our final pass or effort on goal. This is our second defeat now to a newly promoted side and blanking in both of those has perhaps highlighted our limitations in attack – something we knew could come back to bite us after failing to sign a proven striker and new number 10.
From the off we didn’t look quite as sharp as we have in previous weeks. Brighton got in behind our midfield a little too easily in the opening stages, leaving us a little more exposed than we have been in previous week. Given we pride our game on staying compact and affording teams little space or time on the ball, Benitez won’t have enjoyed how open we allowed the game to be early on.
A mini-storm was weathered and we ended the half the strongly, but could and should’ve taken the lead on 22 minutes. Joselu’s hatful of misses against Stoke were not punished, however he dragged a BIG chance wide in the first half. A miss that has proved costly today and will no doubt be one he’s sat regretting as we speak.
Their second half opener was a well worked set piece, looking to be something Hughton’s had them working on in training. We responded with inevitable late pressure, but it was one of those afternoons where I was never quite convinced we were going to find a way. We haven’t had to chase games recently, having not been behind in our last three, and you could tell.
It’s not been our style to come onto teams this season and that showed after going behind in a game for the first time since Huddersfield last month. We’ve tended to absorb pressure and hit teams on the counter, however Brighton’s opener allowed them to sit in, giving us a different predicament to what we’ve faced in our last three games and one that doesn’t seem to suit us too well.
Ritchie tried his best and Merino put in another classy display and kept things moving forward, but we just lacked that little something to break down a pretty stern Brighton back four. Shelvey gave us something Hayden couldn’t when he came on in the second half. I’d like to see him start alongside Merino in the near future.
By no means a disastrous display, but it wasn’t quite good enough and that, as Brighton and Huddersfield have already proved, will see you punished in this league – even against newly promoted opposition.
Onto Liverpool at home next week – a tough test, but a defence that can be got at and a fixture that’s sure to whip up a good atmosphere at St. James’!