Chris Hughton thought struggling Brighton had secured their Premier League status but Glenn Murray’s late miss against Newcastle means his side must wait at least another week to find out their fate.
Having fought their way back into the match when Pascal Gross headed in to cancel out Ayoze Perez’s opener, the Seagulls striker looked odds-on to snatch the winner with minutes remaining. However, Murray headed over from no more than four yards out.
With two games of the season left, the Seagulls are 17th, a place and four points ahead of Cardiff with a daunting trip to Arsenal next Sunday. The Bluebirds, who lost to Fulham earlier and have an inferior goal difference, will be relegated if they lose to Crystal Palace a day earlier.
“When Murray had that opportunity at the end, I thought we’d done it,” said Brighton boss Hughton.
“We hope that [Gross’] goal has made a big difference, but we can’t afford to think that way. We have to think Cardiff are capable of winning their last two games and we must go to Arsenal thinking we have to get something.”
|Remaining Premier League fixtures|
|Arsenal (a) – 16:30 BST, Sunday, 5 May||Crystal Palace (h) – 17:30 BST, Saturday, 4 May|
|Man City (h) – 15:00 BST, Sunday, 12 May||Man Utd (a) – 15:00 BST, Sunday, 12 May|
Will Murray’s miss prove crucial?
Hughton had a look of despair on the touchline after Murray’s last-gasp miss, but it is debatable whether his side would have deserved to take all three points.
Once again they were devoid of invention in attack and broke a club record of 11 hours and 13 minutes without a goal, which had stood since 1970.
At the other end, Hughton’s defence struggled in the first half against attacking duo Perez and Salomon Rondon, who combined again for Newcastle’s opener.
Paul Dummett delivered the ball into the area for the Venezuelan target man, whose chested knock-down was lashed home by Spaniard Perez.
The introduction of Solly March in the second half improved Brighton as an attacking force, although their equaliser came from another familiar forward combination of Gross and Murray. On this occasion, Bruno’s ball from the wing was headed into the path of the German, who nodded past Martin Dubravka from close range.
With confidence rediscovered, Brighton went searching for a winner and thought they had it when Barrow-born Murray met Anthony Knockaert’s delivery – however he sent his effort over the bar.
How crucial a miss that might prove to be will be known in the coming weeks.
In-form Magpies in cruise control
How Hughton would love to be in Rafael Benitez’s position. Both managers have spent relatively modest sums in transfer windows, but the Spaniard appears to have got the better out of what has been at his disposal this season.
For a second successive season Benitez’s defence and attack have peaked in the second half of the campaign having been as low as 18th back in January.
Rondon and Perez have been key to this revival and have now combined for seven Premier League goals this season – the most by a Newcastle duo in one season since 1999-2000 when Alan Shearer and Nolberto Solano managed it eight times.
And bar the Seagulls’ two second-half chances, the Magpies’ defence – currently the seventh tightest in the league – looked untroubled and compact.
It all bodes well for next season, that is if Newcastle can hold on to their manager.
Man of the match – Pascal Gross (Brighton)
‘We needed to keep the ball better’ – the reaction
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez:
“We had the control, we created the chances to score and we expected in the second half they’d be pushing.
“They were aggressive and they were fighting to avoid relegation, we needed to keep the ball better and our counter attacks were not good.
“We couldn’t do the same as the first half and were not as comfortable on the ball. They were desperate to win so we need to understand the context of the game.”
Perez on fire – the stats
- Brighton have won just two of their past 16 Premier League matches (W2 D4 L10), and are winless in their last seven. Brighton ended a run of 735 minutes without a goal in all competitions courtesy of Pascal Gross’ strike.
- Newcastle have won four points from their last two Premier League away games (W1 D1), one more than they had mustered in their previous eight combined (W0 D3 L5).
- Only Huddersfield (14) have conceded more headed goals in the Premier League this season than Newcastle (13).
- Perez has scored seven goals in his past seven Premier League games, as many as he had in his previous 33 in the competition.
- Rondon has been directly involved in 44% of Newcastle’s Premier League goals this season (16/36); only Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (49%) has recorded a higher share for his side in 2018-19. Indeed, it is the highest such percentage for Newcastle in a Premier League season since Alan Shearer in 2003-04 (50% – 26/52).
- Murray provided his first Premier League assist for Brighton and his first since April 2015 for Crystal Palace versus Sunderland, ending a run of 97 appearances without one.
Brighton are at Arsenal next Sunday (16:30 BST) and Newcastle are home to Liverpool next Saturday in what could be a crucial title-decider (19:45).