Brighton 2-3 Man Utd: The Red Devils win the game in the final moment from a Bruno Fernandes penalty

Following the shocking defeat at home to Crystal Palace to start off the new Premier League season, Manchester United were intending on returning to winning ways as they travelled away to Brighton & Hove Albion, who are predicted to have an exciting campaign under the reigns of Graham Potter.

The hosts were dominating the match and were constantly in the opposition’s half, where the movement and pace of Brighton’s wing-backs along with the front three were proving to be too much for the United defence to handle. Not only that, but the Seagulls deserved at least a draw from the game, as they were denied three penalties, as well as the by crossbar and post on five occasions.

Looking at the game as a whole, Brighton had surprisingly experienced more time in possession of the ball, achieving just over 53% of the possession, whilst creating 13 chances throughout the whole game with three of them being big chances. Meanwhile, for United, they had only managed 60 passes in the final third, with eight passes in the penalty box and just one big chance being created.

Graham Potter’s men took the lead from the penalty spot in the 40th minute of the game, through Neal Maupay, as Bruno Fernandes was penalised for bring Tariq Lamptey down in the box. However, the home side’s lead was cancelled out in a matter of minutes, with Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick into the far corner of the box was met by the perfect touch from Nemanja Matic to return it into the danger area, which led to centre-back Lewis Dunk accidentally hitting the ball into his own net.

After the half-time break, the situation between both sides had remained the same, where the visitors were lacking the aggression and intensity to keep the home team contained and isolated. Despite Brighton’s missed chances and inconsistent end product, United were able to pounce effectively on the counter, as Bruno Fernandes was able to set Marcus Rashford through on goal, who had perfectly cut in and out on Ben White before smashing the ball into the back of the goal.

The last 10 to 15 minutes of the game was the main highlight of the fixture. Brighton continued to constantly attack United around the penalty box, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with no option but to move to a defensive stance, as Eric Bailly and Fred came on from the bench for Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba. On the other hand, Graham Potter had to change the game around and went all out with the attacking options, as both Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Pascal Gross entered the pitch.

Brighton were able to pick up a last-minute equaliser through Solly March, who was a very busy player down the left flank and was causing problems for Aaron Wan-Bissaka time after time. Though, eight minutes into stoppage time, Maupay handled the ball in his own penalty box when trying to block the headed attempted from Harry Maguire, which resulted in a crucial penalty for the visitors, leading to Bruno Fernandes scoring from the spot to give his side the much needed three points.

The situation was controversial, given that the referee had blown the whistle for full time, with the Brighton players believing they have earned the crucial point that they deserved. However, the United team complained instantly, meaning that the referee had to do his job and refer to the replay of the incident in the penalty box, which resulted in the match being called back for the penalty.

Overall, Graham Potter and his men will be absolutely gutted that they could not pick up a point. And for a United point of view, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will surely be concerned about the side’s fitness and performance as a whole, but will be content with picking up their first league victory of the season. On that note, The Red Devils sit in 14th place whilst the Seagulls remain above them in 12th place.

 

EPL Predictions Gameweek 1

The 2020-21 English Premier League season kicks off in London on Saturday lunchtime as Fulham play host to Arsenal.

Eight matches in all will take place on the opening weekend, concluding with Brighton & Hove Albion hosting Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.

With Manchester United and Manchester City competing in the latter stages of European competition last month the two clubs have been given the opening weekend off, to explain the shorter schedule.

Here’s a look at each of the weekend’s games:

Fulham vs Arsenal

Arsenal have won the FA Cup and Community Shield in Mikel Arteta’s first couple of months in charge and should fancy their chances of picking up three points in their season opener too. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be the obvious selection for your fantasy team given the forward has scored 22 goals in each of the past two seasons, whilst Dani Ceballos (3.50m) and Damian Martinez (1.0m) offer good value for money in this game.

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Man Utd 3-1 Brighton: Ole’s men enjoyed a straightforward afternoon at Old Trafford

Although the main focus of gameweek 12 was the head-to-head clash between Liverpool and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a must-win match of they own as took on Brighton & Hove Albion, with the aim of turning their form and momentum in the league around. This was the perfect chance for the Red Devils to pick up the win with a solid display.

When looking back at the game as a whole, the hosts were without a doubt the most dominant and attacking-minded side and were on top on both sides of the pitch, whilst the visitors were sat quite deep in their own half and were unable to create enough chances or moments. Nevertheless, United played on the front foot straightaway and it allowed them to gain full control of the end outcome.

The Red Devils got the lead through a good move which went from defence to attack in the matter of seconds, as Andreas Pereira’s shot took quite a deflection before going into the back of net. And then a few minutes later, United got their second from a set-piece which was poorly defended by Brighton, with the loose ball in the penalty box being put into the wrong net by Davy Propper.

Graham Potter’s men were able to pick themselves up from the floor, as they grew in confidence and began to work well on and off the ball for the remainder of the first half. With the tactical changes being made and utilised during the half-time break, the Seagulls were able to get a goal back through Lewis Dunk, who dominantly headed Pascal Gross’ corner passed David De Gea.

Fortunately for Solskjaer and United, Marcus Rashford impressively managed to get the third and final goal for the hosts, which was once again worked well by the team to prevent the visitors from coming up with a potential comeback. Had the side been more ruthless in the final third, they could have ended the match with five to six goals, something that hasn’t happened in quite a long time.

In the end, the Red Devils picked up the much needed three points and their third league victory at home this season as they go up to seventh-place in the table. Meanwhile, Brighton and Hove Albion sit comfortably in eleventh-place, currently seven valuable points away from the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

One of the best attacking displays at Old Trafford this season

For sure, the goals in the first half came down to a bit of luck and Brighton’s overall quality is not the greatest, but no one could deny the intensity and movement on and off the ball that United had showed, which had been lacking for quite some time. However, if it wasn’t for this early and positive mindset, the side wouldn’t have had the two important goals before the half-time break, something they haven’t shockingly completed for the first time at Old Trafford since the middle of January.

The Red Devils ended the match with five big chances created, 21 shots attempted and with 11 of them going on target. If the team are able to keep this up on a regular basis, especially once the injured players are back from the sidelines, then there should be no doubt that they could possibly push for a top four finish from the middle of the season as well as compete in the domestic cups.

The chemistry between Martial and Rashford is growing once again

After both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukuaku had left the club in the final days of the transfer windows, majority of Manchester United supporters were quite concerned about the quality and depth available in the attacking department, as no replacements were brought in at all. Though, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford getting into their stride recently, the side are now able to counter-attack effectively through the pace, movement and understanding they offer to the team.

If we’re being honest, neither of Martial and Rashford have been consistent goal-scorers week in and out, but as long as they work off one another and get into good positions, there shouldn’t be a problem in both players chipping in with 30-35 goals in the league together. United’s attacking options are quite thin at the moment, but they will be hoping that the current individuals will be able to guide them till the end of the year, with the hopes of signing someone in January being high.

Brandon Williams will make the left-back position his own very soon

It had seemed like United had some rising issues in the left-back area, given the injury problems that Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw have been having as well as Ashley Young’s time as a regular player coming to an end. On the other hand, Brandon Williams’ recent introduction has worked wonders for all parties, as he slotted into the position like a glove and is beginning to stamp his own mark.

He may not be seen as the next big thing or the finished article as of yet, but the 19-year-old has been showing his quality and potential on both sides of the pitch, being able to defend with composure, play confidently with both feet and prove to be a threat going forward. If he can continue to perform on a consistent basis and get into the good books of Solskjaer, then the Old Trafford faithful will definitely see the younger be on the team sheet more often than predicted.

Brighton were right to sack Chris Hughton despite Premier League survival

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Brighton have sacked manager Chris Hughton after the former Tottenham player steered the club to survival. On the face of it keeping the club up should have assured Hughton his job, but they were right to sack him as the tell tale signs were there for all to see.

Brighton actually started the season well and were propping up in the top 10 even in December. They were being compared to both Wolves and Watford who are two teams this season that really have punched above their weight and did so well. Wolves finished 7th in a best of the rest position and Watford not only finished close behind but are also in the FA Cup final where they will play Manchester City next Saturday.

As for Brighton it all started to go wrong when 2018 said goodbye and the New Year greeted us with 2019. From the last 20 games, that’s 60 points Brighton won 15, that was good enough not to finish 17th where they did but to finish in 19th position and relegation. Again it is their form at the beginning of the season which saved the club.

From those 20 matches they have won just 3 and scored 15 times conceding 34. The club finished their dismal form at home losing 4 of their last 5 games and the other match ended in a draw. In the end they survived in the league by just two points over Cardiff, who if it wasn’t for some bad luck in games easily would have finished above them.

But it was also Hughton’s approach to survival. Once he knew the club were in danger they ended up approaching games to scared to lose, and so would defend deep in numbers, fans like to call this ‘parking the bus’ and that was the club all over. It made for some poor displays and negative football and no football fan wants to pay to see that even if it rarely grinds out a point.

The majority of Brighton’s transfers were undisclosed which was unfortunate but some sources have suggested that the club spent £70m last summer recruiting players. That’s all well and good but the season before they managed 40 points meaning that they spent all that extra money to finish with 4 points fewer.

Chris Hughton is a great guy and a credit to the game and a real footballing man. For many reasons mostly known to him, the heart was not there in the team and there was no real fight in the second half of the season. He will move on from this and so will Brighton.

So on the face of it it can look harsh to sack a manager when the club have just stayed up, but the truth is that they have actually slipped backwards and just got lucky that Cardiff had a mix of bad luck and at times were poor themselves.

Hughton will be back and Brighton will be hoping that their next manager takes them back in the right direction. Hughton in the end saved the ship from drowning, but now it needs a new captain.

EPL Best XI – Week 37

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The curtain is almost down. The business is almost done. With just a single round of games remaining in the Premier League, the relegation battle is finished but the title race remains very much alive. With the final game of the season being the time that this year’s Premier League champions will be identified, there is still plenty to play for at the summit of England’s top flight. With that said, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this week and see which players performed the best for their clubs this past weekend.

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Brighton’s balancing act could see a cup win, survival or relegation from the Premier League

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What a season it has been for Brighton, but despite some bright points, pardon the pun there has been a lot of low ones and as the season wraps up Brighton still do not know how their season could end. At least it has been an interesting one for the fans, but this rollercoaster may not have a happy ending.

The season got off very well and included a series of home matches where Brighton looked unbeatable, they even beat Manchester United and did it convincingly. But then came 2019- and Brighton simply could not get wins, defeat after defeat even at their home could not lift the gloom and all of a sudden from being talked about claiming the last Europa League place, they slipped to mid table and then they slipped to 16th place. All of a sudden there was the chance of relegation.

The one shining light for Chris Hughton’s side is that they have won back to back games coming into this weekend and that has given them a boost but again there is just 5 points in it to 18th placed Cardiff. Let’s take a look at Brighton’s remaining fixtures.

This weekend they will face Southampton a team just below them in a massive game and if they were to win that they would take a massive step to securing their Premier League status. But with fixtures still to come against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City it is those type of games, the clubs around them that are must wins.

Their matches in April against Bournemouth and Cardiff which are both at home could be their make or break games, and while the club should be safe this season all it will take is a repeat of their bad form of the past 3 months to send them down. If they do survive this season it should be a lesson to the club that the key is consistency in the league if you are going to stay up.

But it isn’t just the league that is a concern as Brighton have fantastically made it into the FA Cup semi finals. Brighton have not been in an FA Cup final since 1983 and have never won the competition. Could they make it again? The likelihood looks slim given that their semi finals opponents are Manchester City, but then again you never know.

That match takes place at the beginning of April at Wembley and it should be a memorable one. As for this season despite some of the lows the fans should have little to moan about, if anything we are coming into April and the club are still fighting on all fronts good and bad, which is better than nothing.

EPL Weekend Picks – Week 28

shawThis weekend’s Premier League fixture list promises another round of tension, goals, celebration and despair. Proceedings get underway Saturday lunchtime with the north London derby, Spurs welcoming Arsenal as their guests at Wembley. We also have a relegation clash as Brighton host bottom side Huddersfield, while on Sunday we have a west London derby – Fulham vs Chelsea – and the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Manchester City look to continue their bid to retain the Premier League crown when they travel to Bournemouth 24 hours before Liverpool’s trip across Stanley Park, and with both of those fixtures proving potentially slippery for the top two this weekend could well start to shape the landscape as the domestic season rolls on.

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Manchester United 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning streak continues

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As the Manchester United supporters and the Old Trafford faithful enjoy the rollercoaster of a ride they are currently experiencing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the side’s next league game was against Brighton & Hove Albion at home, a team that have picked up more points at home than away so far this season. With Arsenal and Chelsea facing one another in the evening fixture, it was more than crucial that the Red Devils picked up the much need three points and also in a comfortable manner.

Overall, United had a perfect first half performance, where they managed to take a healthy lead into the half-time break with the important goals coming from Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba. Though, the last 30 minutes of the game should be seen as a reality check for the manager and the players, as the visitors pulled back a goal through Pascal Gross and a couple of chances to get the equaliser too.

Here are the three factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

Marcus Rashford comes up with the goods again

Since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Marcus Rashford has been one of the few players within the squad that has benefitted from the 45-year-old Norwegian international’s presence as the club’s caretaker manager. The instant progress has been more than obvious over the last couple of weeks, where the forward has managed to become more clinical and proactive in the final third of the pitch.

Rashford is currently on five goals and one assist in his last six league appearances, and he has more or less been the main reason to why Romelu Lukaku has been experiencing a lot of time on the bench. If the rising star from Wythenshawe continues to develop and improve to a consistent level, he could potentially become the 20-goal-a-season striker that the current United side badly needs.

Ander Herrera came up with a Man of the Match performance

Ander Herrera is one of those types of midfielders that gets the job done without any complaints or any excuses at all. From intercepting play and tackling the opposition to moving the ball at a quick level, he produced another top notch performance on both sides of the pitch. With how he is playing at the moment, there is no chance that he will be leaving the club in the summer on a free transfer.

Focusing back onto the last 30 minutes of the game, Herrera’s role quickly became into a defensive and safe minded one, which allowed the team to survive some tough moments in their own half until the final whistle. Time and time again, the dominant displays that the former Athletic Club player produces must make one truly think he has been playing in England for his whole life.

The second half was a huge lesson for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer personally

Although the hosts dominated possession and created a couple of chances in the second half, they did not do enough in taking their shots and it led the visitors to grown in more confidence as they began to have more space and time on the ball. In the 72nd minute, Brighton created a chance out of nothing, which was calmly taken Pascal Gross, who placed it perfectly into the top corner of the net.

On top of that, the Seagulls had a chance or two in the final moments to seize a crucial point away from home, but the end product was not there when it was needed the most. With how relieved the Manchester United players and the manager himself were once the game to an end, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to improve his in-game management as well as his ability to quickly react to the ever so growing and rising threat that is offered by the opposition in the late stages of the game.

Michail Antonio is having a brilliant start to 2019

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When Michail Antonio gets going with the ball at his feet he’s pretty hard to stop. His powerful running combined with quick thinking mean he can bulldoze his way through the opposition or jink his way past. The West Ham man had struggled to have an impact at the beginning of the season, however, he’s looking to be back towards his best based on recent performances, especially those coming since the turn of the New Year.

This week has been the epitome of what the Hammers’ number 30 is great at. Having played the full 90 minutes three games in a row, Manuel Pellegrini had opted to leave Antonio on the bench for Wednesday’s home match against Brighton & Hove Albion. He was eventually substituted on for Robert Snodgrass in the 63rd minute with his side 2-0 down, due to goals from Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy.

Mark Noble –who’d come on at the same time as Antonio- had set up Marko Arnautovic to make it 2-1 just five minutes after the pair had been introduced to play. Just two minutes later it was the winger who announced himself. With Jürgen Locadia and Bernardo doubling up on him, he kept them guessing until he was ready to make his move. He then pushed the ball past the Brazilian full back, barged him away and just kept the ball in play, cutting it back to Arnautovic. The Austrian took a touch and poked it into the net off the underside of the crossbar.

With Antonio wreaking havoc down the right hand side, West Ham were able to make other opportunities in the game, putting the Seagulls under sustained and intense pressure. Brighton stood strong though and held on for the draw, but nothing can be taken away from the impact Antonio and Noble had.

Three days later and he was starting at right back in the FA Cup against Birmingham City. He has displayed a disdain for playing at full back in the past, when continuously played there by Slaven Bilic. However, with Ryan Fredericks injured and Pablo Zabaleta ill, Antonio has had to fill in there at times in the last month, putting in stellar performances.

Yesterday’s 2-0 win was another of those great showings, as he assisted West Ham’s second goal of the game for the second match in a row. This time, the Hammers had gone up within two minutes and had been in danger of letting their lead slip. It was in the 91st minute that Antonio helped secure West Ham’s progression to the fourth round. He received the ball from Robert Snodgrass and took a touch out of his feet. He then sent a perfectly weighted cross towards Andy Carroll who rose above the defender to head in his first goal since returning from injury.

Aside from that moment, Antonio’s link up play with 20-year-old Grady Diangana was tantalising. The pair put together some brilliant combinations to great effect, taunting the Birmingham defence for the entirety of the game. Diangana was arguably the standout player for the Hammers, but his performance was certainly helped by the overlapping runs and slip balls that Antonio provided him with.

Antonio will be hoping to keep his impressive run of form in 2019 going when Arsenal visit the London Stadium on Saturday. The Gunners have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last four league matches, so Antonio and his team mates will look to exploit any defensive frailties they may meet.

 

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Can Newcastle deal with different pressure against Brighton?

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Finally, the fixture list appears to be looking a little more kindly on Newcastle United. For all their problems both on and off the pitch this season, the fact they have played five of last year’s top six in their opening eight games cannot be ignored. As Rafael Benitez and his side prepare to welcome Brighton and Hove Albion, a team much more suited to their own level, on Saturday, the pressure is changing.

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