The last time Aston Villa lost to Brighton, in December 1980, they closed the season as the national champions. It’s only the slightest consolation for manager Dean Smith after a third straight home loss.
Villa had much of the setbacks from Ross Barkley’s early injury to a late penalty award that was quashed when VAR referee Michael Oliver recommended checking his monitor.
But there was also a disturbing defensive naivety that allowed Brighton to counterattack and end their winless seven-game streak by taking their first ever win at Villa Park.
Danny Welbeck sent Brighton on the road to a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa in an exciting encounter
The game ended with Michael Oliver calling out a late Villa penalty in injury time
MATCH FACTS AND REVIEWS
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martinez 7: Cash 6.5, Konsa 7, Mings 5.5, Targett 5.5; Luiz 6 (El Ghazi 74 6), McGinn 5.5; Trezeguet 6.5, Barkley (Traore 4 6.5, Hourihane 74 6), Grealish 6.5; Watkins 6
Subs unused: Steer (Gk), Taylor, Hourihane, Traore, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Elmohamady
Goal: Konsa 47
Booked: Targett, Grealish
Brighton (4-4-2): Ryan 6.5; Lamptey 7, White 7, Dunk 7.5, Webster 6.5; Lallana 7 (Veltman 45 6), Bissouma 6.5, Gross 6.5 (Molumby 90), March 7; Maupay 7 (Burn 80), Welbeck 7
Unused Subs: Steele (Gk), Alzate, Connolly, Jahangasksh
Goal: Welbeck 12, March 56
Bissouma, Lamptey booked
Referee: Michael Oliver 6
Their boss Graham Potter can be proud of the way his squad dug in, even though they finished with 10 men when Tariq Lamptey, who was otherwise excellent, was sent off for a foul on Jack Grealish in stoppage time.
It was also a story of two English internationals, one former and one future. Danny Welbeck, who won 42 caps and went to two World Cups, ran from the center line to open the scoring for his first Brighton goal after being released by Watford.
Meanwhile, Grealish, the country’s most talked-about current player – compared to Paul Gascoigne on the international break – couldn’t make a difference, as the Brighton defenders often pushed him out.
Grealish ended up with a yellow card after a nasty foul out of frustration.
“We weren’t sparkling, but we certainly didn’t deserve to lose,” Smith said afterwards. His biggest complaint was seeing the prospect of an injury-time equalizer snatched from the penalty spot.
Brighton’s Solly March did make contact with the ball before making contact with Trezeguet, but given the follow-up this season was the reason for many penalty awards, it seemed odd that this was destroyed.
‘VAR is turned on to stop obvious and obvious errors. Was that plain and plain? I don’t remember what a free kick or a foul is, ”the Villa boss complained with some justification.
Still, one could be happy with Potter whose struggling side arrived with a game plan and followed it to the letter.
Danny Welbeck was fantastic. He influenced the game well and took his aim well, ‘he said. He joined the team and was incredibly out of possession.
“He defended when he had to and also brought his personality, so I’m very happy for him.”
Villa’s early plans were backfired when Ross Barkley came onto the court with an injury after two minutes
Welbeck gave Brighton the lead with an excellent solo run and a broken finish on Emi Martinez
Welbeck will turn 30 next week, but hasn’t lost the pace and strength that once made him a young star at Manchester United.
After losing Barkley with a hamstring problem, Aston Villa moved forward recklessly and was eliminated after 12 minutes.
Neal Maupay did well with his back to goal to fend off Ezri Konsa and put down Adam Lallana’s first pass to Welbeck, who had no defender between him on the halfway line and the goal.
Welbeck accelerated away before concluding his long run with an accomplished dink over the advancing Emiliano Martinez.
The English star Jack Grealish (left) was impressive again, but Villa missed many opportunities
Vila responded well with Trezeguet shooting from eight meters wide, Bertrand Traore – Barkley’s replacement – firing at the foot of the post and Grealish testing Mat Ryan with a curling iron.
Grealish almost created an equalizer after 39 minutes and cut a free kick to Tyrone Mings, whose volley turned madly towards goal, before Mat Ryan scrambled to the other side to save.
Ben White then had to do a lung interception to deny Ollie Watkins a slap from another Grealish delivery.
Villa’s strong finish to the half convinced Potter to send Joel Veltman during the break. But the change initially had the reverse effect with the home side leveling out a few minutes after the restart.
Grealish left the responsibilities for the free kick to Traore for once and sent an evil curling cross that remained low, allowing Konsa to escape his marker White and convert.
Ezri Konsa (left) equalized early in the second half for Villa with a close finish
It was the ninth Premier League goal that Brighton had conceded from a set piece this season – the highest goal in the division.
However, the responses from the visitors were brilliant. At 56 minutes, they passed the ball around Villa’s defense and when Pascal Gross rolled a ball around the edge of the penalty area in Solly March, he pinged a stunning first-time finish in the top corner.
It was March’s second goal of the season and his first Premier League away game since hitting Bournemouth in 2017.
Dean Smith sent Conor Hourihane and Anwar El Ghazi with 16 minutes to go, Traore’s substitute made way as he just got back from an injury.
Villa pushed forward and nearly got sucked again when Brighton broke from defending a corner kick with Maupay narrowly wide after a quick four-man move.
Solly March put Brighton back at the front with an excellent first time finish at 56 minutes
Potter sent an additional defender, Dan Burn, into the final few minutes, but the real drama came within four minutes of stoppage time.
First, the already booked Lamptey caught Grealish with a tired challenge and received a red card, Potter said diplomatically after the game that he would look back on the decision before deciding whether it was fair.
Lamptey had barely reached the sidelines when Oliver pointed to the spot when Trezeguet fell theatrically when March made contact.
The home party was cut short when the official was asked to reconsider his decision. For one time, it was decided not to represent an offense and Brighton was reprieved.
Villa is still high on the list, but their chances of rivaling the famous Ron Saunders title team of 1981 seem a long way off, despite the omens of Brighton losing.
Tariq Lamptey (left) was sent off by Michael Oliver for two quick yellow cards
VAR intervened when Oliver gave a penalty late in the day for Solly March’s foul on Anwar El Ghazi
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