Wednesday 15 August 2018

Gross steps up to give Brighton extra breathing space in battle for survival

Brighton 1 Tottenham 1

Pascal Gross in action Photo: Getty
Pascal Gross in action Photo: Getty

Nick Szczepanik

Harry Kane scored his 26th Premier League goal of the season as he continued his race for the golden boot with Liverpool's Mo Salah, but it was not enough to allow Tottenham to increase the pressure on the Reds in the battle for third place.

Victory at the Amex Stadium would have put Spurs level on points with Liverpool, but Brighton equalised only two minutes after Kane's goal and held on for a precious point in their battle against relegation.

Shane Duffy of Brighton and Hove Albion looks on as he almost scores an own goal Photo: Getty
Shane Duffy of Brighton and Hove Albion looks on as he almost scores an own goal Photo: Getty

The best that Tottenham could say was that they had a useful work-out ahead of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, but the home crowd celebrated noisily at the final whistle.

Brighton had been staggering towards the Premier League's finish line like an exhausted marathon runner, with one solitary point from their past four matches and all their remaining games.

This result gives them an eight-point advantage over Southampton and Stoke.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino made five changes in advance of the semi-final, including bringing Toby Alderweireld into the defence for his first appearance since the 2-2 draw at Rochdale in the FA Cup.

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring Photo: Getty
Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring Photo: Getty

Also coming into the team after Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Manchester City were Victor Wanyama, Moussa Sissoko, Serge Aurier and Lucas Moura also came into the side. Dele Alli was not even on the bench.

Brighton manager Chris Hughton restored the experienced club captain, Bruno, to the right-back berth, and at first it looked risky as Heung-Min Son ran repeatedly at the 37-year-old. Central defender Lewis Dunk's heart must have been in his mouth when he brought Moura down just outside the penalty area after Beram Kayal had given the ball away to the Brazilian, but referee Kevin Friend showed only a yellow card.

Brighton forced their way into the game and Dunk had their first effort on goal after 18 minutes, a header from a corner by Pascal Gross that Hugo Lloris grasped only at the second attempt.

Lloris also did well when Anthony Knockaert's shot was deflected by Ben Davies.

However, Tottenham, as expected, had most of the ball and Kane twisted away from Shane Duffy into a yard of space on the half-hour but lost his footing and shot well over the crossbar. And the Londoners could have scored twice in first half injury-time.

First Ryan grasped Kane's free kick after Knockaert had fouled the England man as he tried to make up for his own potentially disastrous back pass. And the Australia goalkeeper did even better with a fine diving save to his left as Son's shot seemed certain to find the bottom corner. But, having held out until half-time, Brighton gave the lead away only three minutes into the restart. Bong's attempted to clear was blocked by Aurier and Son fastened onto the loose ball, taking Dunk on along the goalline and beating him before cutting the ball back for Kane to shoot in off Bruno.

Many in the ground must have assumed that Spurs would now go on to add further goals, but Brighton failed to stick to that particular script, and two minutes later the scores were level.

Referee Friend ruled that Aurier had tripped Izquierdo as he ran onto Glenn Murray's flick, and pointed to the penalty spot. That would normally mean Murray taking the ball but after having his previous spot-kick saved by Leicester City's Kaspar Schmeichel, he deferred to Gross and the German shot low past Lloris's right hand.

Tottenham remained ahead in the possession stats and the efforts on goal, but Brighton looked in no mood to surrender without a fight. And so it proved, although they had to survive some scares, especially when Duffy lunged at a fierce cross-shot from Eriksen and diverted the ball inches past his own net. But as Spurs' attacks became more desperate, Brighton began to look almost comfortable and will feel they were well worth the draw. (© Independent News Service)

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