Saints stay bottom but Brighton boosted
Written by First Choice Radio on 15 March 2023
Southampton remain bottom of the Premier League but Brighton are up to seventh.
Ivan Toney was on target again to give Brentford’s slim chances of securing a place in Europe a boost following a 2-0 Premier League win at struggling Southampton.
The Bees had a 12-match unbeaten run that bolstered the aspirations broken by a 1-0 defeat at Everton but bounced back on a wet day on the south coast.
Toney poked the ball into the net from a corner for his 16th goal of the season in a game with few clear-cut chances, before Yoane Wissa wrapped up all three points with a second in second-half stoppage time.
The result ensures Saints remain rooted to the foot of the table, despite a recent improvement in fortunes including a draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Brentford started the brighter of the two sides, forcing Gavin Bazunu into action to deny Bryan Mbeumo, with the hosts also struggling to create space going forwards.
It was the visitors who took the lead after a cagey opening half-hour, capitalising from a free-kick, with Toney in the right place at the far post to tap the ball home following a headed flick-on from Christian Norgaard.
The forwarded rewarded the faith of his manager Thomas Frank, who ahead of the game said Toney was capable of partnering Harry Kane for England.
However, questions had been raised over whether he should still be allowed to take the field as Toney is still waiting for a Football Association verdict after being charged with 262 breaches of FA gambling rules, with a lengthy suspension possible.
Carlos Alcaraz tried his luck from distance as Southampton tried to level the match, but his drive was always rising and went just over the crossbar.
The hosts almost drew level at the start of the second half, responding after being booed off by some sections of their fanbase at the break.
Kyle Walker-Peters drove into the box and cut the ball back for Che Adams, but his shot was cleared off the line by Aaron Hickey.
James Ward-Prowse also came close for Southampton from a free-kick just outside the area, but his curled strike was just wide of the target.
Tempers were frayed from both sides – with 33 fouls – before Brentford added a second in the nine minutes of stoppage time, with Wissa beating the offside trap before slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Solly March’s timely goal boosted Brighton’s bid for Europe as they sank derby rivals Crystal Palace 1-0 in the Premier League.
March scored the winner in the 15th minute – on March 15 – to move the Seagulls level on points with sixth-placed Liverpool with a game in hand.
It also provided a double celebration for Brighton chairman Tony Bloom after his horse Energumene won the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
The problems are mounting up for Palace, though, after their winless run stretched to 11 matches.
They were forced to hand teenage goalkeeper Joe Whitworth a professional debut with regular number one Vicente Guaita and deputy Sam Johnstone both injured.
At 19 years and 15 days, Whitworth was the youngest goalkeeper to appear in a Premier League game since Ben Alnwick played for Sunderland in December 2005.
The former Palace ball-boy made a nervous start with an unconvincing headed clearance outside the area, but Brighton could not punish him.
Yet Jason Steele was the busier keeper in the opening stages despite Palace not managing a shot on target in their last three matches.
Wilfried Zaha at least righted that particular wrong early on when he tested Steele with an angled drive.
Steele saved with his knee after Joachim Andersen’s through-ball split the Brighton defence and sent Michael Olise through on goal, before he palmed Odsonne Edouard’s drive away.
Whitworth got his first decent touch of the ball when he held Kaoru Mitoma’s long-range effort.
But he was beaten moments later when Mitoma sent March clean through to find the net with a composed finish.
Palace could have equalised before half-time but Andersen volleyed Olise’s free-kick across goal and wide.
They could also have been down to 10 men after Cheick Doucoure, back from suspension and already on a booking, scythed down Moises Caicedo as he was about to burst through but somehow escaped another yellow.
Understandably, the Palace midfielder did not emerge for the second half with Patrick Vieira sending on Eberechi Eze in his place.
The second half was delayed after a floodlight failure momentarily plunged the stadium into darkness, and referee Peter Bankes then stopped the match, apparently because his headset was no longer working.
Once play resumed Whitworth highlighted his potential with a stunning reaction save to keep out Alexis Mac Allister’s header at a corner.
Mac Allister almost added a second with a mazy run and shot which flew just wide, but in the end Brighton had to hang on to March’s goal for nine minutes of stoppage time.
Seagulls boss Roberto De Zerbi believes the in-form winger deserves an England call-up, so March’s seventh goal of the season was a useful reminder to Gareth Southgate, who names his latest squad on Thursday.
The 28-year-old also scored in last week’s draw at Leeds, and if he gets the nod from Southgate it really would be the month of March.
Published: by Radio NewsHub