BRIGHTON, England — Brighton secured a stunning 1-0 win over Manchester United thanks to Alexis Mac Allister’s penalty in the 99th minute on Thursday night at the AMEX Stadium.
Andre Marriner needed the help of VAR to award the penalty after a late Brighton corner found Luke Shaw’s outstretched arm deep into injury time. Mac Allister took his time and fired past David de Gea to give Brighton a deserved victory over Eric ten Hag’s United.
The visitors had the better of the first-half chances with Antony and Marcus Rashford going close while Kaoru Mitoma had Brighton’s best opportunity early on as he found himself in plenty of space in United’s box only to fire his effort straight at De Gea’s head, an effort which dazed the goalkeeper.
The second-half threatened to boil over in various moments with United lucky to finish with 11 players on the field but while some lost their cool, both teams tried to find that elusive winner. Brighton edged the latter stages with until they won that last, decisive penalty.
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Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United started Thursday four points ahead of Liverpool in the race for the top four and had their fair share of chances extend that gap. With Liverpool showing signs of a return to form under Jurgen Klopp, United would have been mindful of their rival’s momentum look to solidify their spot in the Champions League spots. But they failed to control the match in the closing stages as they left Brighton with yet another away defeat to their name.
United had chances to win this match with Antony guilty of squandering a great chance after just two minutes as he fired wide when put through. Marcus Rashford — who was running at makeshift right-back Moises Caicedo — had a great chance in the first half with Jason Steele saving well at his near post, while Antony Martial also saw a close-range effort saved by the impressive Brighton keeper.
Second-half chances were less frequent for the visitors with Bruno Fernandes drawing a decent save from Steele as United failed to find the elusive winner. In the end they had to rely on De Gea to keep Brighton out until that late winner.
It’s been the story of their journeys away from Old Trafford this season. Manchester United’s away record against teams in the top 10 is dismal, having now just won one of their last 14 encounters (the 2-1 win over Fulham in November thanks to Alejandro Garnacho’s 93rd minute goal). It’s a concern and one which Ten Hag will have to fix if they are to put together a robust title charge next season.
Ten Hag would have also paid attention to moments where his players lost their cool, with United lucky to finish without going a man. Casemiro was fortunate not to get a second yellow card in the second half for a scything tackle while Antony also lost his cool also with Alexis Mac Allister as he sparked a small brawl after landing a poor tackle on the Argentine. It was a poor night for United, and a glorious one for Brighton.
There were fears the momentum in Brighton’s season may have ground to a halt after their FA Cup semifinal exit to Manchester United side at Wembley in April, as well as a frustrating defeat to Tottenham Hotspur earlier that month where they were done over by VAR. But fear not — their 6-0 hammering of Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend was a statement given they rested key players, and they were brilliant in spells against United and deserved the three points.
Both teams exchanged decent opportunities in the first half, but it was Brighton who played better in the second. Solly March made a great impact from the bench, as Brighton upped the ante in the closing stages. Mac Allister had an arrowed effort well-saved by De Gea, Fernandes cleared another chance off the line but in the end, they had Mac Allister to thank for getting their breakthrough.
While Mac Allister was the best player on the field (more on him later), one of the eye-catching match-ups was the outstanding Kaoru Mitoma up against Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Mitoma got the better of Wan-Bissaka in the opening exchanges and pounced on a slack Victor Lindelof pass in the opening exchanges only to fire straight at De Gea, dazing the Spanish goalkeeper in the process. Mitoma was constantly one of Brighton’s more potent threats and he was unfortunate not to get a second-half penalty when he was caught in the box.
But back to what Brighton can control and as they continue their charge for a Europa League spot, Roberto de Zerbi — who was struggling with a virus, and missed his pre-match news conference — surprised again with his team selection. We’ve become accustomed to the unorthodox from him when it comes to team selections and he did it again with his choice of right-back on Thursday. Without their first-choice right-back Joel Veltman, their stand-in option Pascal Gross and the injured Tariq Lamptey, they filled it with the ever-versatile Moises Caicedo. With Caicedo covering there, they went for Billy Gilmour in the middle and the wheel kept turning.
Jason Steele also warrants a mention. The goalkeeper was outstanding. De Zerbi said before the win over Wolves he wants both his keepers — along with Robert Sanchez — to keep each other honest and improving match on match. As they’ve proven time and time again, they’ve mastered the art of shifting personnel around to cover whatever’s thrown at them.
Mac Allister has been linked with a move away from Brighton from the moment he stepped foot back on English soil after winning the World Cup with Argentina. He’s superb and in an age where most of Europe’s top clubs are looking to bolster their midfield, he won’t be short of suitors this summer with Liverpool reportedly leading the charge.
But it’s going to be hard to tempt him away from here. Brighton play outstanding football, they’re a club on the up, the players are improving under the guidance of De Zerbi and there’s a brilliant feel around the place. Again Mac Allister was outstanding against Manchester United. He controlled the middle of the pitch, knowing precisely when to charge forward, and when to look to their threats on the flank. He was astute in defence, and kept on recycling possession in the middle of the pitch. In short, he’s the ideal central midfielder.
If one day Mac Allister departs the AMEX for one of the bigger sides in Europe, Brighton will have to find a way to replace him. But as they’ve proven time and time again, they’ll find a way.
BEST: Alexis Mac Allister, MF, Brighton
Controlled the game and despite coming in for some rough tackles from United, was the best player on the pitch.
BEST: Bruno Fernandes, MF, Manchester United
He was the one who managed to unlock Brighton’s defence with some pinpoint long-range through balls.
BEST: Jason Steele, GK, Brighton
Superb in everything he did in goal for Brighton. Made key saves and his distribution was on point.
WORST: Antony, FW, Manchester United
Missed a key early chance and lost his cool in the second half.
WORST: Fred, MF, Manchester United
A poor game from the midfielder as a lack of accuracy in the middle of the park let him down.
WORST: Danny Welbeck, FW, Brighton
Struggled to make an impact on the match against his former side.
After a heated match, it was Mac Allister with the cool finish to the top of net in final seconds.
Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister on his penalty, to Sky Sports: “They know I like to have that opportunity to score. Of course I was a little bit nervous. I’m very happy every time I have an opportunity to score a goal, so I’m very happy for the team.”
Brighton’s Roberto de Zerbi on the win, to Sky Sports: “There is a God of football. We deserved to win the [FA Cup] semifinal but lost on penalties but today we won with a penalty.”
Manchester United’s Luke Shaw on giving up the penalty, to Sky Sports: “Last minute, last action really. I got a little nudge but of course the hand shouldn’t be there. I own up to it, take it on the chin, it cost us the game but it is tough … I can’t even explain why my hand is up there. I got a nudge, maybe that helps with my hand going up but it shouldn’t be there.”
– At 90’+9′, it’s the latest game-winning goal for Brighton in the Premier League.
– This is the first time that Brighton completes defeated Manchester United twice in a league season.
– Mac Allister’s goal for Brighton (98:16) is the third latest game-winner in Premier League history, bested only by Bruno Fernandes in the 90’+10′ on Sept. 26, 2020, and Alex Iwobi in the 90’+9′ (98:20) on March 17, 2022. Ironically, Fernandes’ 2020 game-winner came at Brighton, so two of the three latest game-winners in Premier League history have come in matches between Manchester United and Brighton.
Brighton: Taking on relegation-threatened Everton at the AMEX Stadium on Monday.
Manchester United: A trip to east London on Sunday where West Ham United will greet them.