Brighton Secures Historic European Berth With Victory Over Southampton
Brighton made history by securing European football for the first time and virtually guaranteeing a spot in the Europa League with a 3-1 home victory over relegated Southampton.
Evan Ferguson, 18, scored two goals in the first half, cementing his place in Albion’s record books.
Southampton’s Mohamed Elyounoussi scored a header to narrow the gap in the second half, but VAR disallowed a potential equalizer before Pascal Gross sealed the game.
Although Aston Villa could still tie Brighton’s points tally, their significantly inferior goal difference makes it highly unlikely for them to snatch the Europa League spot.
The momentous occasion was heightened by the presence of a North Carolina State University band, which uplifted the atmosphere in the packed stadium with a spirited performance of “Sweet Caroline” using trumpets and sousaphones.
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Kaoru Mitoma narrowly missed a shot towards the right post in the 8th minute. The Saints started the first half in a shaky position, but they recovered as goalkeeper Alex McCarthy easily dealt with Pervis Estupinan’s long-range effort.
Theo Walcott had a chance to give Southampton the lead but missed after receiving a cross from Carlos Alcarax.
Mitoma had another opportunity when Jan Bednarek stumbled, but he hit the post with his low shot. The Seagulls later took the lead through 18-year-old Ferguson, who scored his fifth Premier League goal with a low strike.
Mitoma played a role in Ferguson’s second goal, challenging Romeo Lavia for the ball before setting up the Irishman to score his 10th goal of the season in the bottom left corner.
The Japan international had a close chance to score again in stoppage time, but the halftime score remained with a two goal advantage.
Gross attempted a weak shot at Alex MacCarthy at the start of the second half as the Saints began to assert themselves in Brighton’s territory.
Southampton pulled one back in the 58th minute as Elyounoussi headed in James Ward-Prowse corner. Albion’s situation quickly seemed to unravel. Ward-Prowse played a cross to Theo Walcott, who lifted the ball over Jason Steele, but the potential equalizer was disallowed after a VAR check.
Shortly after, Gross extended the hosts’ lead, calmly collecting the ball after an aerial challenge and scoring his 26th Premier League goal for Brighton, matching the club record held by Glenn Murray and Neal Maupay.
Brighton, led by an increasingly animated Roberto De Zerbi, continued to push for more goals. They had late opportunities through Mac Allister and Deniz Undav, but despite their missed chances, no Brighton player had any regrets when the final whistle blew after a tense seven minutes of stoppage time.