Brighton would look to confirm their participation in next season’s UEFA Europa League with a win over already-relegated Southampton. Roberto De Zerbi’s side have been one of the biggest shock packages of the season, and wrapping it up with European football would be a huge achievement for the Seagulls.
BHA: Steele; Estupinan, Colwill, Dunk, Veltman; Caicedo, Gross; Mitoma, Mac Allister, Enciso; Ferguson
SOU: McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Lyanco, Bednarek, Bree; Lavia, Elyounoussi, Alcaraz, Ward-Prowse, Walcott; Aribo
Brighton’s first promising chance came within the opening ten minutes, as Kaoru Mitoma drove into the box from the left flank before curling an effort just inches wide of the far post. The Japanese international was involved once more, but his strike from inside the box was directed straight at McCarthy before ricocheting off the crossbar.
With just under half an hour played on the South Coast, Brighton took the lead courtesy of Evan Ferguson. Alexis Mac Allister created the chance, but the young Irishman took a touch and thundered the ball low and hard towards goal – the ‘keeper wasn’t able to get down quick enough to deny him the opener.
Ferguson doubled his tally ten minutes later, as Mitoma surged past Lavia on the left flank before playing in the striker – who sent yet another powerful strike past McCarthy to ensure the Seagulls held a comfortable lead at the break.
Just before the hour mark, Southampton clawed a goal back to ensure that the final thirty minutes would be packed with action. Mohamed Elyounoussi notched his first league goal of the season, nodding James Ward-Prowse’s corner delivery into the bottom corner to give the Saints a sliver of hope.
Brighton looked shaky following that goal, as Southampton attempted to replicate the same corner routine just minutes later. This time though, Elyounoussi headed wide of the post. The Saints thought they’d bagged an equaliser two minutes after, as Theo Walcott darted behind the Brighton defence to latch onto Ward-Prowse’s through ball. The winger did well to draw Jason Steele off his line, chipping him with a very cheeky finish – but VAR showed that the forward was offside as he received the pass, and the goal was promptly disallowed.
Pascal Gross restored Brighton’s two-goal advantage in the 69th minute, as Southampton failed to clear a corner effectively. The midfielder picked the ball up on the right and demonstrated some fancy footwork before sneaking the ball past McCarthy at the near post.
Southampton couldn’t recover from there on – but they’d shown fight and came painstakingly close to equalising. Ultimately though, the better side prevailed, and the celebrations in Brighton will continue long into the night as they have qualified for the UEFA Europa League.