Brighton & Hove Albion cruised back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a comfortable 2-0 win over ten-man Leeds United at the Amex Stadium.
The away side were in great form heading into the game, but when Kalvin Phillips handled on the goal line, the defender was sent off and Glenn Murray converted the penalty mid-way through the first half.
A second penalty was converted in the second half, this time by Tomer Hemed, to give Brighton the three points and put the pressure on their promotion rivals heading into this weekend’s game.
The home side lacked conviction throughout the first twenty minutes, but were given plenty of the ball as Garry Monk set his Leeds side up to defend deep and counter quickly. Their game plan was turned on its head though in the 22nd minute as they were reduced to ten men and Brighton were awarded a penalty.
Antony Knockaert’s deep corner was flicked at goal from the back post by Lewis Dunk and in an instinctive attempt to clear off the line, Phillips handled the ball on the goal-line. The referee saw the foul and sent the Leeds defender off, while Murray stepped up to rifle in his 12th goal of the season and add some comfort to the Seagulls’ uneasy start.
They could have doubled their lead in the 30th minute as Leeds failed to defend Knockaert’s deep corners. It was Murray himself who attacked it this time, but the former Crystal Palace man hit the side netting with his header from a tight angle.
Leeds’ only opportunity of the first half was a half chance at best, but Chris Wood will be disappointed by his in-ability to connect with the ball from ten yards. Hadi Sacko’s mishit shot fell perfectly into the path of the New Zealand international but Wood missed the ball completely and the chance was gone.
It nearly got worse for the Yorkshire side on the strike of half-time, but a good save from veteran goalkeeper Rob Green kept the score at 1-0. It was former West Bromwich Albion full-back Sebastien Pocognoli who did well on the left wing to work the ball inside for Murray, but Brighton’s top scorer saw his dinked effort tipped over by the former England international shot-stopper.
Chris Hughton’s promotion chasers continued to look comfortable in the second half and Green was forced into another good save in the 56th minute. Knockaert was running the game now and opened up the pitch by coming inside, before the winger found his opposite wide man Jamie Murphy in a good position. The 27-year-old Glaswegian got the ball onto his right foot and curled a low effort at goal, but Green’s diving save pushed the ball away to safety.
Knockaert’s set-piece delivieries were causing a problem for Leeds and Shane Duffy should have wrapped up the points in the 79th minute. The central defender rose highest to head at goal, but aimed his shot straight at Green from ten yards out and the Leeds goalkeeper made an easy save. Monk will not be happy with how easy Brighton made chances from set-pieces and another lofted free-kick caused another penalty two minutes later.
Dunk got in behind Kyle Bartley and the Leeds captain pulled the Brighton man to the floor and the referee had no choice to point to the spot. With Murray earlier substituted, it was his replacement Hemed who stepped up to send Green the wrong way and score his third penalty of the season.
Brighton played out the rest of the game, with their fans chanting about their league position and Hughton will be hoping a former side in Birmingham City will do him a favour when they face Newcastle United tomorrow.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)