A clinical Brighton and Hove Albion side showed their promotion credentials as Brentford were beaten on the South Coast. After an even opening the home side went ahead and had a 2-0 lead by half time that they never looked like relinquishing. Brighton, who started the day in fifth, shut the game down expertly and made it very difficult for Brentford to get any sort of hold in the game. They then sealed the win with a third goal at the death from the excellent Jamie Murphy.
While the score line may have been a little harsh on a Brentford team that dominated possession for long stages, the home side were superb in both penalty areas. Defensively they were almost faultless and in attack they had the game’s key players – Murphy and Anthony Knockaert. The wide men created almost everything for the hosts, scored two of the goals between them and ultimately ensured Brighton took the points.
The game started at a frenetic pace. Both teams went on the attack from the first whistle and there were good chances at both ends inside the opening ten minutes. The first chance fell to the hosts and was probably the best of those end-to-end opening exchanges. Murphy got away on the left and weaved infield before firing off a shot that was blocked by Yoann Barbet deep in his penalty area. The loose ball dropped to Knockaert but it got trapped under his feet and he could only poke it wide from eight yards.
Alan Judge had a sight of goal moments later when Lasse Vibe robbed Lewis Dunk and set him up but he fired narrowly wide. Moments later Vibe and Maxime Colin combined to set up Judge again, this time his shot was whistling towards the top corner before David Stockdale pushed it wide. Barbet also had an early shot blocked and, at the other end, a Knockaert shot deflected just wide after the midfield man had burst from deep
After a frenetic opening the game settled down and Brentford started to take control. They had an extra man in midfield and when Brighton were out of possession, the movement of the visitors and the way they used that extra man gave the hosts problems. But Murphy and Knockaert were the key men for Brighton when they did have the ball. The wide men drifted infield to provide attacking support but were comfortable going outside as well. Murphy almost set up the first goal with a cross that reached Bruno 20 yards out, the right back let fly and Harlee Dean somehow managed to divert the ball on to his own crossbar and away to safety when inside the six-yard box.
However, the opening goal was not long in coming and unsurprisingly, Murphy and Knockaert were the key figures. The hosts broke when a Brentford attack broke down in Brighton territory and the ball was spread to the left, Murphy cut back inside and fed Knockaert, who got away from Colin and Ryan Woods and fired a shot low past David Button.
It was almost two moments later when Beram Kayal picked up a loose pass and burst forward, he fed Tomer Hemed but the striker fired in to the side netting. Judge had a shot blocked for The Bees and Vibe had a great chance to equalise when Josh McEachran’s corner reached him at the far post but he reacted late to it and the ball hit him and bounced away. And that proved to be an important moment as Brighton did get their second goal just before the break. A free kick was worked quickly to the right and Kayal got away from the attentions of the Brentford defence before lifting a ball across for Hemed to power a header in to the bottom corner.
Brighton could have been out of sight before the break as Bobby Zamora headed wide when well placed and also just failed to get away from Barbet when he would been in on goal. But with a 2-0 lead the hosts would have been comfortable with their position at half time. And before the hour mark they had further chances to put Brentford away. Hemed flicked a header wide before Murphy, who had delivered the cross for that chance, blasted over after good work from substitute James Wilson. Knockaert then volleyed over from ten yards when Wilson weaved in to the box and Dunk headed wide.
Brentford sought to change the flow of the game by introducing Sergi Canós and Marco Djuricin around the hour mark. The Bees had been on the front foot in the second period but Brighton were compact and well-organised. They settled in to two banks of four when they did not have the ball and looked to use the pace of Wilson to break on Brentford, also seeking to capitalise on any mistakes from The Bees.
But after the changes it was The Bees that had the upper hand. Brighton’s attacks were fewer and further between and Brentford were snuffing out anything they created while chances were coming at the other end. Canós set up Judge for a shot that was blocked and the Spaniard then saw a deflected shot saved. There was a great piece of defending by Wilson inside his six-yard box when Stockdale dropped a corner and Swift swivelled to shoot but the ball hit the brave Brighton block and flew wide.
A curling free kick from Judge almost caught Stockdale out, the goalkeeper saving at full stretch as he backpedalled furiously before Canós got a chip wrong after a ricochet inside the penalty area. At the other end Knockaert was just unable to meet a Murphy cross and turn it in before Barbet made a superb recovery tackle to prevent Wilson getting a shot away. The third goal did, however, come at the death. Knockaert played a ball through and Murphy raced clear before slotting past Button to wrap the game up.
Brighton and Hove Albion: Stockdale; Bruno, Dunk, Goldson, Ridgewell; Knockaert, Kayal (sub Sidwell 78 mins), Stephens, Murphy; Zamora (sub Wilson h/t), Hemed (sub Crofts 68 mins)
Subs (not used): Ankergren, Calderón, Towell, LuaLua
Bookings: Stockdale (36 mins)
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Barbet, Bidwell; Woods, McEachran (sub Macleod 82 mins); Saunders (sub Canós 60 mins), Judge, Swift; Vibe (sub Djuricin 62 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Yennaris, O’Connell, Kerschbaumer
Bookings: Woods (42 mins) (fifth of season)
Attendance: 24,096 (1,075 Bees fans)