Brighton 1 Middlesbrough 2
GOALS from Lee Tomlin and Albert Adomah helped stretch Boro’s unbeaten run to seven games and moved them to third in the table this afternoon. Writes GORDON COX from the Amex Stadium.
There was just one change from the side that beat Fulham as Ben Gibson, on a high following his exploits with England U21s this week, returned to replace Kenneth Omeruo, whose international duty with Nigeria prevented his inclusion in the squad.
Midweek loan signing Milos Veljkovic was named among the substitutes.
Without a win in the league since August, Sami Hyypia made five changes to his Brighton side from the last game, a 1-1 draw at Watford. Out went Bruno, Andrew Crofts, Rohan Ince, Adrian Colunga and Chris O’Grady. In came Inigo Calderon, Jake Forster Caskey, Danny Holla, Kazenga Lua Lua and Sam Baldock. That meant a place in the starting line-up for Boro Academy graduate Joe Bennett.
The opening move of the game brought controversy as George Friend clattered into Joao Teixeira 10 yards inside the Boro half. But Brighton were on a break and Baldock was making progress into the penalty area and Boro were stretched. It was to the dismay and annoyance of the Brighton players and anger of their fans that referee Andy D’Urso refused to allow any advantage and pulled the game back for a free-kick.
Keeping up the pressure, Brighton fashioned a half chance inside the Boro box but Gary Gardner shot weakly at Dimi Konstantopoulos.
A cross from Albert Adomah set up Lee Tomlin as Boro got into their stride. The first touch from Tomlin took him deep into the Brighton penalty area, too far as David Stockdale comfortably covered the move.
It didn’t take long for Boro to break the deadlock.
With seven minutes played Grant Leadbitter release Adam Reach with an excellently-weighted ball down the left. Reach’s touch looked heavy but Stockdale was stranded as he came off his line and the Boro winger got their first. He pulled the ball back to Lee Tomlin who stroked home from just inside the penalty area with the goalkeeper never going to recover lost ground.
Another sizeable Boro following celebrated in style, then watched their team grow into the game, though it took an excellent challenge from Gibson inside the penalty area to ease Calderon off the ball.
The Spaniard was then denied by a splendid Friend block as Brighton enhanced their status as the side with the most shots in the Championship.
Hyypia was forced to make a change a minute short of the half hour mark as Teixeira, influential even though injured, was replaced by Paddy McCourt who a year ago this weekend was dancing through Boro’s defence for Barnsley in what proved to be Tony Mowbray’s last game in charge.
When Tomlin broke through deep in the Brighton half just right of centre he had Reach as an option away to his left. He delayed his options, electing to prise an opening for himself which never materialised.
Leadbitter was a yard wide with a low shot through a crowded box from the edge of the area, before Boro had claims for a penalty turned down. Reach fed Kike inside the Brighton box and his shot on the turn spun up and struck Lewis Dunk on his arm. It would have been a harsh decision had it gone against him. Boro played on and Bennett produced an excellent block to deny Adomah from close range.
Tenacious defending from Ryan Fredericks held off a determined approach from Lua Lua ahead of the final effort of the half which came from Adam Clayton who saw a powerful shot from 21 yards deflected away for Boro’s first corner of the game.
Half-time Brighton 0 Middlesbrough 1
Both managers made a change during the break. Jelle Vossen replaced Tomlin, while O’Grady was sent on for Danny Holla.
It was Brighton with the first chance of the half as tenacity from Lua Lua saw his strong-arm his way to the edge of the penalty area and forced Konstantopoulos into a comfortable enough save away to his left as he gathered a low shot.
McCourt was next to ask a question as he cleverly worked his way into the penalty area before shooting just wide.
Boro stamped their mark in emphatic style with a terrific goal on 53 minutes.
Daniel Ayala brought the ball out of defence and played a one-two with Adomah. Continuing up the right wing Ayala then played a one-two with Vossen and continued his run before squaring to Albert Adomah inside the penalty area. His first shot was saved, but Stockdale couldn’t hold on and Adomah followed up to tap home.
When Clayton slid in to block a shot he took the full force of the ball in his face. After treatment for a couple of minutes it was clear his afternoon was over and walking of his was replaced by Dean Whitehead.
For a moment it looked as though there may be another enforced change as Konstantopoulos called for attention to what looked like a tight hamstring, but he was allowed to continue.
The Brighton fans have always had a reputation for being sporting to the opposition and so it was when the travelling attendance was read out as generous applause rang round the stadium.
Adomah limped off to be replaced by Emilio Nsue in Karanka’s final change, but the game seemed to be drifting anyway as Albion’s fans vented their frustration and Boro looked relatively comfortable.
But then Bennett forced a save from Konstantopoulos before wriggling into a dangerous position inside the penalty area before being crowded out and suddenly Brighton had renewed energy.
With three minutes remaining it was game on as a left-wing corner was flicked on and Seagull’s captain Gordon Greer was unmarked as he headed in at the back post. Most of Brighton’s goals have been scored from set pieces this season, this was another to add to their tally.
It proved too little too late and despite the last few minutes being more nervy than they ought to have been Boro took another deserved victory from a ground where they have never lost in four visits.
Scorers Tomlin 7, Adomah 53, Greer 87.
Brighton: Stockdale; Calderon, Greer (Capt.), Dunk, Bennett, Holla (O’Grady 46), Teixeira (McCourt 29), Gardner, Forster-Caskey (Colunga 76), Lua Lua, Baldock. Subs: Walton (gk); Hughes, Chicksen, Ince.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Fredericks, Ayala, Omeruo, Friend, Adomah (Nsue 84), Clayton (Whitehead 59), Leadbitter (Capt.), Reach, Tomlin (Vossen 46), Kike. Subs: Blackman (gk); Wildschut, Bamford, Veljkovic.
Referee Andy D’Urso
Brighton Gardener, 43 foul; Greer, 72, foul.
Middlesbrough Friend, 15 foul; Fredericks, 33 foul; Adomah 71, foul; Nsue, 90, foul.
Attendance 26,642 (1,376 Boro)
Conditions Warm, dry, overcast and still.
Possession Brighton 56% Middlesbrough 44%
Boro Website Man of the Match Daniel Ayala