Sunday 15 September 2019

Gross gives Brighton timely relief

Brighton 1 Newcastle United 1

Brighton's Pascal Gross scores their goal. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters
Brighton's Pascal Gross scores their goal. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

Dominic Fifield

This game had edged into its final minute when Anthony Knockaert swung over a cross and Glenn Murray, free at the far post, nodded the ball over a gaping net from close range. Chris Hughton buried his head in his hands in disbelief, the chance of a first league win since early March passed up in that moment. Yet when the dust settles, Brighton & Hove Albion may consider this to have been the point which preserved their Premier League status.

The draw, secured late with a first goal for seven weeks, from Pascal Gross, has edged Brighton four points clear of Cardiff City and, even with daunting fixtures to come, the likelihood is their current tally should prove sufficient to survive. The Welsh club will realistically have to win their last two games, at home to Crystal Palace and away at Manchester United, to stand a chance.

The sense of dread that has been building in this corner of Sussex has eased marginally. Their team may be limping over the line, but there was relieved applause, rather than livid exasperation, to greet the final whistle.

Cardiff's defeat earlier in the afternoon, which offered Albion a glimpse of safety through the gloom of the recent run, should have relaxed them. Yet such is the fragility of this team that the first misplaced pass, mistimed tackle or even hint at an upbeat Newcastle rhythm drained any optimism.

Hughton stood glumly on the edge of his technical area through a first period dominated by the visitors. His team had barely managed a touch in the opposition box by the break, with lengthy periods of unhindered Newcastle possession playing out to taunts of "ole!" from the visiting support.

Ayoze Pérez had departed by then, his right hip damaged when he was bodychecked by Shane Duffy early on, but the Spaniard had been carrying that injury when he established the visitors' lead.

Brighton's Pascal Gross in action with Newcastle United's Salomon Rondon. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Brighton's Pascal Gross in action with Newcastle United's Salomon Rondon. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

The goal summed up Brighton's current malaise. No one sought to close down Paul Dummett as he trundled forward on the ball, surveying the scene ahead and considering his options. His centre found Salomón Rondón's chest, the Venezuelan having edged easily away from Bernardo and Lewis Dunk beyond the far post, with the ball dropping to Pérez, unmarked just inside the penalty area. The finish was emphatic.

Yet for all their dominance the visitors' lead was still slender. Brighton edged forward with greater purpose and, eventually, got their reward. Bruno's simple cross prised the visitors apart, Murray finding space to nod back for Gross, so rusty until then, to guide in a close-range header.

Observer

Newcastle United's Salomon Rondon in action with Brighton's Bruno Saltor. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Newcastle United's Salomon Rondon in action with Brighton's Bruno Saltor. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Newcastle United's Fabian Schar (centre) in action as Brighton & Hove Albion's Lewis Dunk (left) attempts a tackle. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Newcastle United's Fabian Schar (centre) in action as Brighton & Hove Albion's Lewis Dunk (left) attempts a tackle. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

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