Brighton suffered a limp 2-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
Kick-off was delayed by half an hour due to the traffic Villa encountered on their way down to the south coast. However, the tardy visitors got the jump on their hosts.
Matty Cash fizzed Villa into an 18th-minute lead. Collecting the ball on the edge of Brighton’s box, Cash steadied himself before arrowing an angular drive in off the far post.
Yet, either side of the opener, Brighton demonstrated the threat they can pose by targeting the yawning space behind Villa’s fullbacks – Cash chief among them.
Up against Villa’s perilously narrow diamond midfield, Graham Potter sent his wingbacks high and wide, with Solly March scurrying down Cash’s flank frequently. Alexis Mac Allister blazed over from inside the penalty area following this pattern of play in the first half.
Between the sharp parps of the referee’s frequently used whistle – the first half saw more yellow cards than any other opening 45 minutes of the Premier League season (per Opta) – Villa’s midfielders were denied from close range as Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn had efforts blocked by a gaggle of blue and white.
Potter rejigged his setup during the interval, sacrificing a midfielder as Brighton lined up with a front three in search of a rare home goal. Only bottom-side Norwich City had scored fewer on familiar turf in the Premier League this term going into the game.
If anything, these alterations hampered the flickering threat Brighton had intermittently posed before the break. Yet, whatever personnel took to the pitch would have been expected to deal with the painfully straightforward approach Villa employed to double their lead.
Tyrone Mings blasted the ball from his own defensive third up the pitch. Ollie Watkins proved the only player able to read the flight of the hoick, latching onto what was surely a clearance and clinically firing past Robert Sanchez.
Robert Sanchez (GK) – 7/10 – Unable to do much about Cash’s pinpoint strike but impressive in denying Villa from range and inside his own box thereafter.
Joel Veltman (CB) – 4/10 – Unconvincing on and off the ball.
Lewis Dunk (CB) – 4/10 – On his return from suspension, the Seagulls skipper made a goal-saving block in the first half but didn’t cover himself in glory for Villa’s route one second goal.
Marc Cucurella (CB) – 6/10 – Carried out a complex hybrid role as he shuffled between the leftmost member of a back-three and four.
Tariq Lamptey (RWB) – 5/10 – Pushed forward as part of a front three as the game went on but frustrated wherever he started his scampering from.
Jakub Moder (CM) – 5/10 – Having initially been ushered out of midfield during the break, Moder was hooked off altogether an hour in.
Yves Bissouma (CM) – 5/10 – Unable to get his teeth into the contest with Coutinho shadowing him.
Alexis Mac Allister (CM) – 5/10 – Squandered one of the sporadic openings Brighton could carve out.
Solly March (LWB) – 6/10 – Brighton’s brightest outlet with his penetrating darts behind Cash. Oddly switched to the other flank during the interval.
Leandro Trossard (ST) – 5/10 – Dropping off the front line to receive the ball behind Villa’s midfield trio with mixed success.
Neal Maupay (ST) – 6/10 – Eager to tangle with the towering Mings despite a vertical disadvantage, Maupay found chances hard to come by.
Danny Welbeck (LW) – 5/10 – Connected well with a rare cross that Villa didn’t make first contact to but steered it well wide.
Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 7/10 – Calm with the ball at his feet and largely untroubled with his hands.
Matty Cash (RB) – 7/10 – A crisp finish is what his display will be remembered for but endured some tricky moments at the other end.
Ezri Konsa (CB) – 7/10 – Carried out what little defensive work he was faced with devoid of fuss.
Tyrone Mings (CB) – 8/10 – A commanding presence at the back and chipped in with a long-range assist.
Lucas Digne (LB) – 6/10 – Dealt well enough with Lamptey’s electric pace down the flank.
John McGinn (CM) – 7/10 – At his hustling bustling best in an exceedingly busy – in the best of ways – display.
Douglas Luiz (CM) – 7/10 – Found space in a crowded midfield before he was worryingly forced off early with a fitness concern.
Jacob Ramsey (CM) – 6/10 – Always keen to bundle forward and support Villa’s well-timed attacks.
Philippe Coutinho (AM) – 8/10 – For all the silky wriggles in the attacking third, it was an unexpectedly disciplined defensive display that defined a fine outing.
Ollie Watkins (ST) – 7/10 – Converted his first sight of goal clinically.
Danny Ings (ST) – 6/10 – Ferreting around the top of the pitch, Ings provided more nuisance value than end product – though both are necessary.
Morgan Sanson (CM) – 6/10
Ashley Young (LW) – N/A
Tim Iroegbunam (AM) – N/A