Late VAR drama sees Brighton edge past United

Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United travelled to the South Coast on Thursday, as they looked to face Roberto De Zerbi’s buoyant Brighton side. The Seagulls have mounted a surprise charge for European football and look destined to bag a place in the Europa League, while United must fend off late competition from Liverpool if they wish to compete in the Champions League next season.

BHA: Steele; Estupiñan, Dunk, Webster, Caicedo; Mac Allister, Gilmour; Mitoma, Enciso, Buonanotte; Welbeck

MUN: De Gea; Dalot, Shaw, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Fernandes, Casemiro, Fred; Rashford, Martial, Antony

There was a great chance early on for United, as the Red Devils won the ball back high up the pitch in a move that allowed Bruno Fernandes to play in Antony with a tremendous through ball. The Brazilian’s effort was fired wide of the post though.

Action followed at the other end soon after, as Lindelof’s attempted pass to Wan-Bissaka was intercepted by Kaoru Mitoma. The Japanese winger opted to take on the shot himself rather than playing in Enciso – who would have had an easy finish to make. David De Gea did well to make the save and keep the game level.

Antony was involved in another squandered chance with ten minutes on the clock as he looked to find Fernandes – but the United captain blazed his effort over the crossbar. The opening few minutes had certainly shown signs of promise, though both teams lacked the required finishing touch to make their chances count.

Brighton felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the nineteenth minute as Wan-Bissaka forced Mitoma to the ground inside the area, but VAR agreed with Andre Marriner’s on-field decision to let play continue. The right-back denied the winger minutes later, as he put in a great challenge to deny the opportunity to fire a cross into the box.

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Jason Steele was put to work by Marcus Rashford as the game approached the thirty-minute mark. The Englishman surged past Moises Caicedo before rocketing a shot from a tight angle towards goal. but the ‘keeper was able to save with his feet.

There were to be more chances for both sides before the break, as Enciso thumped an effort wide of the post before Martial’s strike was directed straight at Jason Steele. Neither team could make their opportunities count though, and there was nothing to separate the two sides at half-time.

It had been a rather strange showing from Kaoru Mitoma in the first half, as we’re used to the winger picking the best move for the team rather than going for goal himself. Having blasted an effort straight at De Gea in the opening minutes, he squandered another chance at the start of the second half – finding the side netting as opposed to a teammate.

The Japanese international found one of his colleagues next time though, as he found Danny Welbeck with a nicely executed cutback. Against his former club, Welbeck skied his effort over the crossbar – maybe Mitoma was right to take on those earlier chances himself!

Brighton appealed for another penalty in the 67th minute, as Mitoma danced into the penalty area in a bid to get a shot off. He was tripped, but once more Andre Marriner opted to let play continue and dismiss their cries.

Levi Colwill looked to play in Solly March in the final five minutes, and the winger managed to skip past a handful of United players before blasting an effort wide of the top-right corner. Desperate for a goal, the Seagull came close in the 90th minute when Alexis Mac Allister struck an effort from range – but David De Gea was able to palm it behind for a corner.

The drama was far from over though, as Mitoma drove a shot towards the bottom corner which was parried away to Moises Caicedo. The Ecuadorian’s effort was saved – but after Andre Marriner blew for full-time, there was to be a late VAR check. Luke Shaw quite clearly handled the ball, and the hosts were awarded a chance from the spot which Alexis Mac Allister duly thumped past De Gea.

The Seagulls claim all three points in the 99th minute, and rise to sixth. They look destined to play Europa League football next season, while United’s grasp on the Champions League loosens with this defeat. The final few minutes were reminiscent of another Brighton v United fixture though – with a penalty awarded after the final whistle, though Brighton fans won’t mind too much this time as the decision went their way.

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