Playing a team outside the park, missing many opportunities and not achieving results – that was the theme of the season for Graham Potter’s Brighton.
But the Seagulls broke that trend on Saturday to ensure anything but survival with a 2-0 win, leaving Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds looking devastatingly average in the process.
Pascal Gross put Albion ahead with an early penalty and Danny Welbeck added a late second after a beautiful Cruyff turn to confirm the three points that put Potter’s men 10 points ahead of 18th-seeded Fulham.
Brighton did a brilliant job of insuring everyone except to ensure their survival in the Premier League
Pascal Gross scored from eleven meters after Danny Welbeck made an error in the first half
Welbeck then scored late on a stunning goal to leave Brighton ten points ahead on 18th
MATCHES AND PLAYER RATINGS
BRIGHTON (4-2-3-1): Sanchez 6; White 7, Webster 7, Dunk 7; Veltman 6.5, Gross 7.5, Bissouma 7 (Mac Allister 90 + 2), Burn 6.5; Trossard 8 (Jahanbakhsh 81); Welbeck 8.5 (Moder 90), Maupay 6.5.
Subs not used: Steele, Connolly, Alzate, Izquierdo, Propper, Zeqiri.
Scorers: Gross (pen) 14, Welbeck 79.
Manager: Graham Potter 8.
LEEDS UNITED (4-1-4-1): Meslier 7; Ayling 6, Llorente 5 (Hernandez 79), Struijk 6, Alioski 5 (Poveda 46,6); Koch 6.5; Dallas 6, Klich 6, Roberts 6, Harrison 5; Bamford 5 (Rodrigo 59,6).
Subs not used: Casilla, Berardi, Drameh, Shackleton, Jenkins, Huggins.
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa 5.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 7.
They played smooth, one-touch passes and pulled Leeds apart at will, while showing steel to set a seventh out at home this season – only improved by Manchester City and Chelsea.
Bielsa flirted with the result with two goals. Brighton really should have scored more, but for a wasteful finish. They won’t care much now – this win means their top status for a club record for the fifth consecutive season is virtually guaranteed.
“The hardest part is putting the ball in the net,” Potter said. But the way the players held on to it was good and they got the reward which is one more goal and three points.
The turn [for Welbeck’s goal] was one of those times when you are sad, there was no crowd to see it. ‘
Brighton started well and took the lead after 12 minutes via Gross’s penalty. Welbeck tried to maneuver some space in a stuffy penalty area and was fouled by a clumsy Ezgjan Alioski.
Gross did his best knowing that Brighton missed three penalties this season, the most joint in the league, but left Illan Meslier without a chance with a hard and low penalty.
Welbeck looked sharper than before since he signed with the Seagulls last summer and continued to harass the Leeds defenders.
He caught Diego Llorente in possession after 40 minutes and aimed at Leandro Trossard for what looked like an easy finish, but the Belgian shot high and wide.
Maybe if it had been the other way around, with Welbeck’s natural finisher having the photo, it would have been different. But that happened minutes later, when Trossard fed Welbeck only for the attacker to pull his attempt next.
Leeds’ only chance at the half came when Albion player Dan Burn headed a clearance to his own husband Joel Veltman, almost causing an embarrassing own goal that would have been perfect for a football blunders DVD – if they still exist.
Ezgjan Alioski gave away the penalty for this foul on Welbeck and was removed during half-time
Gross stepped up and converted to Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier’s right side
Welbeck scored when he made a Cryuff turn and took him past Leeds defender Pascal Struijk
Too many times this season, Brighton has dominated games and not got what they deserve. For their fans watching around the country at home, it must feel like a predictable TV drama by now – and they often didn’t like the ending.
But Bielsa’s men created almost nothing. Their only threat came from set pieces, although most of them were swallowed up by the commanding officer Robert Sanchez.
‘We had a problem with creativity when the ball didn’t reach Patrick [Bamford]’said Bielsa. “He couldn’t receive the ball where he could do damage.”
Ben White headed over to Brighton from close range before Neal Maupay missed another sitter. Trossard put it on a plate for the French forward, who was unmarked on the penalty spot with only Meslier beating, but his shot was weak and rolled wide.
Potter continues to trust Maupay despite just 18 goals in 70 Premier League appearances. He does more than just score goals – with smart matchmaking and insistence – but you might wonder where Brighton would be with a prolific goalscorer.
It was a frustrating day at the office for Leeds, whose six-game unbeaten streak ended
Jack Harrison sees his ambitious volley fly over the bar at Amex Stadium
But when asking questions about Maupay’s finishing ability, it was easy to forget that Brighton had a former Manchester United and England at Welbeck.
He confirmed the victory after 79 minutes with a beautiful goal. Pascal Struijk tried to get rid of a bouncing ball, but Welbeck took the ball out of the air with a Cruyff turn to allude to two defenders, before sliding his left foot past Meslier.
When Brighton returns to social media after the boycott on Monday night, they’ll be sure to milk videos of that special twist from Welbeck.
“Our goal was not to be downgraded,” added Bielsa. “Every game there is an obligation to compete at that maximum level.”
Marcelo Bielsa was visibly frustrated with his team’s performance during the 90 minutes
Graham Potter, on the other hand, will be over the moon, as his team is now ten points ahead of 18th
EXPERIENCE ALL LIVE ACTION RIGHTS BELOW WITH SPORTSMAIL …