With AFC Ajax lingering just one point off the bottom of the Eredivisie table after seven games, de Godenzonen would look to make a statement and record three points on the road in the UEFA Europa League. It would be just their third win of the season, and the first since their qualification playoff victory against Ludogorets at the end of August.
It comes as a stark contrast to the Seagulls’ form. Despite finding themselves rooted to the bottom of their UEFA Europa League group, Roberto de Zerbi’s men have been flying in the Premier League – currently sitting in 7th.
BHA: Steele; Milner, van Hecke, Dunk, Veltman; Gilmour, Groß; Mitoma, Fati, Adingra; João Pedro
AJA: Ramaj; Sosa, Hato, Šutalo, Gaeei; Taylor, Berghuis, Tahirovic; Bergwijn, Brobbey, Forbs
Ajax’s dismal domestic form looked set to continue on the South Coast after just a matter of minutes, with João Pedro appealing for a penalty after being felled by Jorrel Hato. Bartosz Frankowski saw nothing wrong in the challenge – a theme that would continue throughout the first half.
The Seagulls looked to be the dominant force at the AMEX on a miserable Thursday evening, and when their Dutch visitors did venture forwards, resolute defending kept a struggling Ajax at bay.
João Pedro simply wouldn’t believe his misfortune when, as the half-hour mark approached, he was denied yet another penalty by the referee – and the home faithful would launch into furore five minutes later when Jan Paul van Hecke was shown a yellow card for a remarkably light foul on Brian Brobbey.
But Brighton looked to be undeterred despite a refereeing performance that looked to be against them. João Pedro was proving to be a thorn in the side of the Ajax defence, and although his close-range strike was denied by Diant Ramaj in the 36th minute, he arrived back on the scene to slam home the opener six minutes later.
A defence-splitting through ball had picked out the lively Kaoru Mitoma on the left flank, and with the Japanese maestro’s curling strike merely parried back into the box by the Ajax shotstopper, the Brazilian forward was on scene to smash home the decisive opener – and the Seagulls would take a well-deserved lead into the interval.Embed from Getty Images
And with less than ten minutes played in the second half, Brighton had doubled their lead – seemingly putting the tie out of Ajax’s reach. Connecting beautifully with a chipped through ball from Simon Adingra, Ansu Fati timed his finish to perfection, threading his strike through the legs of Josip Šutalo and past a despairing Diant Ramaj.
A rather end-to-end second half would fail to come to fruition for Ajax though, with the visitors’ mustering their best chance through Steven Berghuis just before the hour mark. His shot from the edge of the penalty area had Jason Steele beaten, but the Dutchman was denied by the woodwork and could only watch in despair as his effort struck the base of the near post.
It would have been overly optimistic for Ajax to expect a win on the South Coast, but it’s a result that certainly spells trouble for de Godenzonen nonetheless. Hedwiges Maduro is only leading the team on a caretaker basis – and with no permanent manager lined up yet, Sunday’s de Topper clash at PSV Eindhoven looks set to end in another humiliation for Ajax.
As for Brighton, they’ll travel to Fulham’s Craven Cottage – buoyed by a comfortable home win. The Cottagers currently sit 13th in the Premier League, five points behind the Seagulls after nine games.