Six things we learned from Brighton's defeat to Newcastle
A familiar feeling? A first for everything and the angry man ends up the happy man. Here are six things we learned from Albion's defeat to Newcastle last night.
WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE
It feels like Lady Luck has not gone Albion's way in recent big games.
Looking back to last season, Dale Stephens was red-carded in the promotion shoot-out at Middlesbrough - all Albion fans will say harshly by Mike Dean - before Brighton lost four players to injury in the first leg of their play-off tie with Sheffield Wednesday.
It seemed the rub of the green was changing last night when the Seagulls were awarded a soft early penalty, which Glenn Murray coolly tucked away.
However, Newcastle's equaliser can only be described as a fluke, a one-in-a-million goal. From that point on, the visitors were in the ascendancy and got the winner a minute from time to move back to the top of the Championship.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
A staggering Albion stat was ended in last night's defeat. In 18 games they had scored first in the Championship this season, they had gone on to win.
For a long period, it looked as though that was going to be made 19, before Newcastle's dramatic late fightback.
When Sky Sports mentioned it in the studio at half-time, there were a few murmurings of a jinx in the press room and so it told as Albion failed to clinch their 22nd win of the campaign.
For Albion midfielder Stephens, it was the first time he had tasted defeat starting a game this season. In his previous 21 starts, Brighton had won 17 and drawn four matches.
OFF THE BENCH
Seagulls boss Chris Hughton received some stick on social media after the game for what was perceived as a negative substitution by fans. Midfielder Beram Kayal replaced striker Sam Baldock moments after Newcastle's equaliser, although he was ready to come on before the goal.
With Newcastle on top, the plan was to try to dominate in midfield but it didn't work out. All managers live or die by their decisions and it was Newcastle's subs who made the difference. Darryl Murphy was a handful for Albion's defence, twice going close with headers, while fellow sub Ayoze Perez got the late winner.
BIG PLAYERS KEPT QUIET
Newcastle's defence did an excellent job on in-form Albion wingers Anthony Knockaert and Jamie Murphy. Knockaert had one opening in the second half but was denied by visiting keeper Karl Darlow, while Murphy was forced into a more defensive role helping out Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori, after left-back Sebastien Pocognoli was forced off with an early groin injury.
Knockaert tried all his usual tricks and skills on the wing but Newcastle full-back Paul Dummett stood up to the task as Albion's French winger had a quieter game than Brighton fans have been used to.
TINKERMAN / ANGRYMAN / HAPPYMAN
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has long been known as a tinkerman and he rung true to his name as the team-sheets came through. Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez lost their places in the 11 for an off-set pairing of Yoan Gouffran and Mohamed Diame.
But the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Chelsea boss looked more like the angryman as the first half wore on. Furious with the decision to award Glenn Murray a penalty and raging with the last-man booking for DeAndre Yedlin, he then continued to wave his arms in bewilderment at any decision after that.
Turns out though, Rafa ended up the happyman with the final result... and while his emotions ran through the spectrum during the match, he was cool, calm and collective in his post-match analysis.
The atmosphere was at fever pitch before kick-off with the magnitude of the game clear and almost 3,000 Geordies were definitely playing their part in that.
The home crowd's cries escalated even higher as Albion controlled the opening exchanges. When Glenn Murray sent Karl Darlow the wrong way from the penalty spot the roof almost came off the Amex.
But it turned out the minority of the season-best crowd of 30,230 were to be the ones signing at full-time... 'Don't take me home' was the cry from the South Stand as the traveling contingent certainly enjoyed the grandstand finish.
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