Brighton end barren run with victory over Brentford

Neal Maupay struck a stunning goal against his former club as Brighton picked up a first Premier League win in 12 games by beating Brentford 2-0 on Sunday.

Albion’s top-scorer Maupay – who cost £20million from the Bees in August 2019 – lashed an unstoppable effort into the top right corner just before half-time to light up a below-capacity Amex Stadium.

Leandro Trossard set the Seagulls on course for a first top-flight success in more than three months with an instinctive 34th-minute volley.

Brentford had second-half opportunities to salvage something but were denied by a couple of superb saves from Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, while Marc Cucurella brilliantly cleared an Ethan Pinnock header off the line.

Victory for Graham Potter’s hosts ended a barren streak stretching back to a 2-1 success over Leicester on 19 September, lifting them to ninth in the table.

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The teams went into the game with 20 points apiece and having each had two December fixtures postponed due to the impact of coronavirus.

Frenchman Maupay – who missed last week’s 1-0 loss to Wolves – returned as part of four changes for the hosts, while Bees defender Dominic Thompson made a Premier League debut in the absence of the injured Rico Henry and star striker Ivan Toney was back in the starting XI following Covid-19.

The late kick-off time on Boxing Day evening and absence of public transport predictably led to swathes of empty seats.

Those who opted to stay away missed little in the opening stages.

Brentford attacker Bryan Mbeumo was sent clear by Thompson’s punt forward but his lofted effort over Sanchez lacked conviction and was easily cleared by Dan Burn.

Albion captain Burn later saw a deflected header loop on to the crossbar, albeit with Bees keeper Alvaro Fernandez being fouled by Maupay.

Brighton eventually took control of the contest with two sublime goals in the space of nine minutes.

Belgium international Trossard made the initial breakthrough, expertly guiding a deft, first-time finish over the advancing Fernandez following Enock Mwepu’s perfectly-weighted ball over the top.

Brentford were seeking consecutive Premier League wins for the first time and soon had a mountain to climb courtesy of a former hero.

Maupay – who scored 41 goals in 95 games during two seasons in west London – collected the ball from Jakub Moder before unleashing an unstoppable drive beyond Fernandez from just inside the D.

The stunning finish was Maupay’s seventh strike of the season and third in as many appearances after he rescued late points at West Ham and Southampton at the start of the month.

Brighton’s lengthy winless streak coincided with the injury absence of Danny Welbeck.

The former England forward returned from a prolonged hamstring issue for the second half in place of goalscorer Trossard and was forced to defend for much of a second period dominated by the visitors.

Brentford midfielder Shandon Baptiste thought he had halved the deficit on the hour mark but Sanchez somehow managed to repel a deflected effort with his knee.

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The Seagulls stopper then got down low to push away Pinnock’s nodded effort, before another goal-bound header from the Bees centre-back forced a brave, last-ditch clearance from Cucurella.

Brentford’s frustrating evening was perhaps epitomised by Toney being booked for simulation inside the 18-yard box as Brighton comfortably held on for a long-overdue triumph.

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