Neal Maupay stole the headlines as Brighton earned a crucial win in their fight for Premier League survival on Saturday, beating Arsenal 2-1 at the AMEX Stadium.
The Gunners pushed early on as Bukayo Saka struck the bar and Alexandre Lacazette’s strong header was saved by goalkeeper Mathew Ryan. The first half was marred by a nasty injury to Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who landed awkwardly on his knee after impact from Maupay.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half strike was quickly ruled out for offside by VAR, but they finally got their breakthrough with a moment of magic from Nicolas Pépé, who beautifully curled into the top corner for his seventh goal of the season, making it two goals and three assists in his last four league appearances.
Brighton found an equaliser just seven minutes later, when Rob Holding unsuccessfully tried to clear on the goalline, allowing Lewis Dunk to stick his leg out and poke the ball into the back of the net.
The game seemed to be heading for a stalemate, but pantomime villain Maupay stole the show in incredible circumstances. He broke free and went in on goal in the 95th minute, coolly stroking past Martínez in the dying embers to earn a massive win for the Seagulls.
Key Talking Point
Playing their first game in three and-a-half months, Brighton needed a strong start if they are to avoid relegation. Graham Potter’s side can be stringent at the back and that was proven in a resilient performance. Arsenal had chance after chance, but the Seagulls were equal to everything that was blasted their way thanks to their organisation.
Brighton did eventually concede, but remained focused and bit back soon after, albeit with a goalmouth scramble where Dunk was on hand to stab the ball home. It was all they needed to get on the scoresheet after what had been a pretty flat showing in the final third.
Out of nothing, Brighton stole a remarkable win in stunning fashion, snatching it in the final seconds. The Seagulls will be ecstatic with the win, having been on the back foot the majority of the afternoon, with superb defending and a late charge securing all three points.
It is a performance which will fill Potter with huge confidence going into the final few weeks of a season, one that proves that they can fight and do have a genuine shot at earning survival.
Starting XI: Ryan (7*); Schelotto (6), Webster (7), Dunk (7), Burn (6); Bissouma (7), Pröpper (6), Mooy (6); Groß (5), Maupay (7), Trossard (6).
Substitutes: March (6), Connolly (6), Montoya (6), Stephens (N/A), Mac Allister (N/A).
Brighton goalkeeper Ryan had a superb game in goal, making save after save all afternoon. The Australian was solid between the sticks, playing with confidence around his box and doing well to resist the Arsenal onslaught with an outstanding performance.
While Maupay will earn the plaudits for getting the winner, Brighton would not have got it without Ryan’s heroics.
Key Talking Point
A humiliating 3-0 loss to Manchester City midweek was the worst possible start for Arsenal, who were looking for a late season push for a European finish. Without the suspended David Luiz and injured pair of Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari, this Arsenal side had a slightly different look to it – not to mention Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pépé all starting together up front.
The Gunners looked revived from their midweek drubbing, playing with real confidence and style as they piled the pressure on the hosts. They were unlucky not to break the deadlock, but there was also a sign of misfiring forwards and a lack of cutting edge, something which cost them at the Etihad.
Arsenal’s breakthrough was a beautiful one, a real stroke of genius from Pépé to finally get their goal. But for all of their attacking strength, it was once again their defensive mishaps which cost them. Mere minutes after finally taking the lead, they could not clear their lines, conceded a soft goal, and collapsed right at the death to throw away what would have been a massive win.
It marks a humiliating defeat and a woeful week for Arsenal, a game where they were ahead for just six minutes and lost to a last-minute winner. Back to back defeats is the worst possible start for Mikel Arteta, but it is no surprise. They have had a dreadful season, and instead of trying to start afresh they have continued exactly where they left off.
One word to sum Arsenal’s day up? Embarrassing.
Starting XI: Leno (N/A); Bellerín (6), Mustafi (6), Holding (5), Kolašinac (6); Guendouzi (7), Saka (7*), Ceballos (6); Pépé (6), Lacazette (5), Aubameyang (6).
Substitutes: Martínez (5), Nketiah (5), Tierney (N/A), Willock (N/A), Nelson (N/A).
Bukayo Saka does deserve credit for his performance, putting in a decent shift in midfield in the absence of Xhaka. He worked very well with Mattéo Guendouzi and led in style, popping up with the assist for Arsenal’s only goal.
Brighton face a tough test on Tuesday, when they travel to King Power Stadium to play Leicester. That is followed by another visit of a big six club to the AMEX, as Manchester United travel down to face the Seagulls on 30 June.
Arsenal are back on the road for the third consecutive game, as they return to the south coast to meet Southampton on Thursday. The Gunners are not back in north London until 1 July, when they host relegation battling Norwich at the Emirates.
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