Sports

Premier League Brighton blunt Manchester United to secure Premier League football next season

A famous and fully-deserved victory for Brighton and Hove Albion over Manchester United guaranteed Chris Hughton’s Seagulls a second season in the Premier League and made United wait to claim second place.
Victory would have left United needing only one more point to finish the season as runners-up to neighbours City, but they found themselves up against a home side who ran themselves into the ground to achieve a first win in seven games and their first over last night’s opponents since 1982.
Brighton’s player of the season, Pascal Gross, put them ahead after 57 minutes with his seventh goal of the season and although they had to withstand a late onslaught, their goalkeeper, Mathew Ryan, had only a few saves to make. Until the closing stages United had been short of ideas and sloppy in their passing and they could have few complaints about the result.
Rashford fluffed a great chance to open the scoring in the first half (Getty)
As expected, Romelu Lukaku missed the game with the ankle injury he suffered against Arsenal last weekend. He was one of six changes to the United starting eleven. Marouane Fellaini, one of the six, had the ball in the net inside two minutes but was correctly ruled offside from Marcus Rashford’s free-kick.
Brighton’s first effort was a low shot by Dale Stephens that went just wide after good work down the right from Anthony Knockaert and Bruno. Knockaert, the man of the match and clearly in the mood to put on a show, then launched an ambitious cross-field dribble that ended with a pass to Jose Izquierdo, whose shot was blocked.
But the home side’s best effort came almost out of nowhere in the 20th minute as Glenn Murray collected a bouncing ball some 25 yards out and attempted to surprise David De Gea with a snap shot. The effort was on target for the top near corner of the net but the Spain goalkeeper dived to palm the ball away or a corner.
Little had been seen of United as an attacking force until Lewis Dunk was forced to head away a volley from Rashford in the 24th minute, and then had a let-off after his poor control presented Rashford with the ball, which fellow defenders managed to smuggle away for a corner . And even then Brighton were soon back on the attack, Shane Duffy nodding a corner just wide after De Gea had touched a fierce shot from Izquierdo over the bar.
Gross’ goal was confirmed by goal-line technology (Getty)
Brighton were on top but needed to make it count. Gross had a chance when Knockaert’s clever pass sent him in on De Gea but his shot was straight at the goalkeeper and you suspected that the visitors would not be quite so profligate when openings presented themselves.
Paul Pogba, notable until now for a series of wayward passes, almost proved the point early in the second half with a low shot that tested Brighton goalkeeper Ryan.
But finally the home side made the breakthrough. Davy Propper sent Izquierdo scampering away down the left in the 57th minute and at the second attempt he got in a cross that De Gea could only flick a glove at.
Gross nodded the ball goalwards and although Marcos Rojo lashed it away, the goal decision system indicated that it had crossed the line by about an inch.
Izquierdo rolled a good chance to double the lead wide after Davy Propper’s driven cross found its way through the defence and back came United. Ryan saved a shot from Rashford at full stretch, Anthony Martial volleyed over and substitute Jesse Lingard, once on loan at Brighton, stabbed wide. But Brighton, with Duffy and Dunk immense, were defending for their Premier League lives and deservedly hung on.